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Monthly Archives: March 2006

Picoflyer – World’s Smallest RC Copter

Picoflyer (Image courtesy

By Andrew Liszewski

Sitting next to a 9-volt battery you really get an idea of just how small the Picoflyer is with its 60mm diameter rotors. But besides being amazingly tiny and fully flyable, the Picoflyer also has some innovative design behind it.

Helicopters are inherently unstable by design, which makes them notoriously difficult to fly but the Picoflyer uses a new (and patented) approach to keeping the craft stable during flight. The rotors are arranged in an innovative way so that any small horizontal movement causes them to tilt up, creating an opposite horizontal force stopping the motion immediately. The downside though is that the rotors can’t be pitched forward like on a conventional helicopter, reducing its horizontal speed. Instead the Picoflyer uses a small tail propeller to tilt the entire craft forward, which in turn causes the entire craft to fly forward.

Sadly the Picoflyer was built only as a tech-demo and is not available nor intended for sale at any point.

[Picoflyer] CIA [Too Cool Tech]

Vinyl Snack Tray

LP Snack Tray (Image courtesy UncommonGoods)By Andrew Liszewski

If you’re considered the local audiohpile and are thinking of throwing a party these recycled LP Snack Trays might be the perfect accessory. (Though some audiophiles may cringe at the site of these LPs that have been ‘repurposed.’)

Made from actual 12-inch vinyl records, New York artist Jeff Davis first laminates the LP to protect it against moisture or damage, then presses them into a tray shape designed to hold chips, popcorn or other party-friendly snacks. Understandably they’re not recommended for serving liquids or hot items.

The LP Snack Tray is available for $26 from UncommonGoods who also sell LP Bowls ($26) and LP Coasters (6 for $20).

[LP Snack Tray] VIA [Productdose]

OhGizmo Review: Slappa’s Bulkhead PRO 2:1

Slappa's Bulkhead 2 in 1By David Ponce

Slappa’s motto is “Protect Your Digital Gear”. For the last few weeks, I’ve been using their Bulkhead PRO 2:1, and I have to say, they do live up to that motto, to a T. And that’s a great thing, really. Although, like a cop wearing three bulletproof vests, it does come with a bit of a drawback.

This particular bag is made from BuckBlast suede, and its most notable feature is that it is really two bags in one. An industrial-strength zipper runs down the middle, and what is a nifty travel bag quickly turns into a dandy laptop bag. There is room for a 17″ laptop in the front, and well, as they like to point out, a second laptop in the main compartment.

And then, there’s padding. Lots of it. See, that’s the secret behind the protection. The padding. So, before I give you all the details inside, let me make this clear out here. It’s a great bag. Solid, well built and above all, provides really great protection to whatever you might put inside. But the protection does come at the sacrifice of some space. If you travel light, and don’t pack your entire office in your laptop bag, then this will not a problem for you. And, let me really emphasize this: your stuff is safe inside. Really safe.

It’s $130, and available at the Slappa website.

So, for my regular crappy pictures, and a ton more details, come inside.

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Ambient Weather Forecasting Umbrella

umbrellaBy Bruce Eaton

If you’re smart and keep an eye on the news, you’re not likely to leave without an umbrella on a rainy day. But why not just cut out the middleman? With the Ambient Umbrella by Ambient Devices you can do just that! Incorporating a data receiver in the handle which accesses for your geographic location, the handle has blue LEDs that flash according to how likely it is to rain. 100% chance of rain yields 100 light pulses a minute. At 60% it flashes once a second and for 30% chance of rain, a flash every few seconds.

Keep it in a very visible place, by the door, and you will never have to worry or watch the weather. Even just today I got screwed by ye ol’ timey meterologist who said “Bright and Sunny” and turned into “Raining with Fire & Brimestone” for the whole day. If only future me liked past me enough to travel back and bring me one of these. [Bruce’s been huffing paint again. Forgive him. -Ed.] Available summer ’06.

[Ambient Umbrella] VIA [Wired]

The LYRA X3000

lyra x3000
By Tanya Palta

We somehow missed this at CES, but it’s never too late, so check out the LYRA X3000. This Personal Multimedia Recorder not only acts like a handheld TV, but also packs some PVR features, storing up to 40 feature length movies, on a 20GB hard drive.

It stores your shows in MPEG4 format, and sports a 3.6-inch TFT ultra-bright color LCD screen with 320 x 240 resolution. Now you can be couch potatoes… on the go!

The LYRA X3000 by RCA became available in January with a suggested retail price of $399. Bunch more specs after the jump.

[Thomson] VIA [GizmoNews]

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Brother Stampcreator PRO

Brother Stampcreator PRO (Image courtesy Brother)By Andrew Liszewski

I saw this service available at my local Staples the other day and while it’s apparently not new, I still found the idea of ‘printing’ a custom rubber stamp intriguing.

Here’s how it works. You first create your image, logo or slogan and import it into the custom Brother Stamp Editor software. The Stampcreator PRO, which is attached to the computer like a standard printer will then transfer your image onto a transparent film using 600 dpi thermal transfer printing, preserving all the detail contained in your original graphic.

You then position a blank stamp into the printer, where it sits above a Xenon flash. The surface of the blank stamp is made from a rubber material that is light-sensitive and was developed especially for the Stampcreator PRO. The light from the Xenon flash causes millions of micro-sized pores on the surface of the blank stamp to close. However pores that are protected from the bright flash via the black portions of the originally printed transparent film remain open. As a result only the areas with open pores will absorb the ink and transfer the stamp image onto the paper. The whole stamp ‘printing’ process takes only 3 minutes.

The Stampcreator PRO is designed as a commercial solution but can be yours for $799 from

[Brother Stampcreator PRO]

Chatty, The Facially Animated Mannequin/Robot

Chatty RobotBy David Ponce

Perhaps to call this contraption a robot would be stretching the meaning of that word a little. So, think of it more like a mannequin with a creepy, yet innovative feature. It’s called “Chatty”, and is on display at the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2006. Developed by the Ishikawa Optics & Art Corporation, its point is to give the mannequin/robot a more realistic, human-like face.

A video image of an actual human face (or the face of a computer-generated character, if you prefer) is projected onto the inner surface of the mannequin?s face, which serves as a three-dimensional video screen. Audio synced with Chatty?s video lip movements gives the face an astonishingly realistic look.

Of course, like all good such stories, there’s a nice video for you to watch, after the jump.

[The Chatty Homepage] VIA [Robot Gossip]

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The Future Of Display, Sony Data Tiles

Sony Data Tiles

By David Ponce

Round these parts, we’re very fond of overly dramatic and impossibly clich?d hyperboles. Things like “The future is now!” or “Move over George Jetson!” or even “Think different.” Yet, if there ever was a time to whip out the big and cheezy rhetorical guns, the new Sony Data Tiles would warrant it.

See, it seems like the good thinking folk at the Interaction Laboratory of Sony Computer Science, led by Jun Rekimoto are re-inventing the way we interact with a computer. They’ve created a system that uses specially tagged, transparent tiles that display interactive and dynamic graphical information when placed on a sensor-enhanced display. What does that mean?

In Jun Rekimoto ‘s words:

?I am interested in designing a new human computer interaction style for highly portable computers, that will be situation-aware and assistance-oriented rather than command oriented.?

What does that mean? Well, it’s kind of hard to put into words. That’s why you simply have to come inside and watch the video. Suffice it to say, this sort of work, if it ever takes off, may very well revolutionize human-computer interaction for good.

I mean it.

Now, before you start cancelling your subscriptions and demanding a refund, we’re aware that this has been around for a while. But heck, it’s the first I hear of it, and I think some of y’all might not have seen it.

[Sony Data Tiles] VIA [TechEBlog]

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Quzzle, Hardcore Computer Science

By Bruce Eaton

You are probably thinking I am insane to call the Quzzle, a sliding block puzzle, computer science or a gadget… but hear me out. Jim Lewis, an inventor from New Jersey, set out to create ?the world’s hardest simple sliding-block puzzle? and he did it with custom software and a high-speed computer.

Programming and number crunching, Lewis devised the Computer Assisted Puzzle Analyzer (CAPA) software in Haskell

a so called “Functional” programming language. He went through numerous revisions of the program to allow computation of a solution in an acceptable amount of time. The first version would have taken years of computer time to complete. Subsequent versions progressively reduced the needed computer time by making the program more and more efficient.

He then used the program to figure out which starting position for a 4 by 5 sliding block puzzle would have the largest solution tree. The result is a 9 piece puzzle that is deemed “nearly unsolvable” and comes with internet support for finding the answer.

The computer science behind these types of problems are called PSPACE-complete. Essentially it is very complicated polynomial so hard a math type that my brain just gave up while trying to write about it. So yes you might be able to solve a Rubiks Cube in under a minute behind your back but can you solve a Quzzle… looking at it… for a month… with internet help?

[Quzzle] VIA [Quirkle]