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Monthly Archives: January 2007

Robotic Arm Ride Is A REAL Ride, Not Just Some Guys’ Hack

By David Ponce

A lot has been made lately of this robotic arm ride. It’s about these guys who strap themselves up to a robotic arm (the kind that you find in car assembly lines), and fling themselves about the room. Looks like fun, but it also looks dangerous, with the guy’s head nearly scraping the floor several times.

Well, guess what? It turns out this is pretty old. There’s a real ride like this, for random people, in a mall in Dubai.

I went there over the Holidays, and got some footage of the beast in action. It’s called “Robo Coaster”, and features a large robotic arm, with double chairs at the end. When you get in, you tell the operator just how crazy you want your ride to be. He then dials it in, and the flailing begins. Anything from old-people-sedate to brain rattling. A two minute ride costs 15 Dirhams, which is about $3.5US. It’s completely safe, and looks fun as hell.

It’s in Magic Planet, in The Emirates Mall, in Dubai… if you feel like looking it up. The video you see above was shot with a Nokia N93.

And man… I wish we had this sort of stuff over here.

Thinklabs iPod Nano Stethoscope Recording Kit

Thinklabs iPod Nano Stethoscope Recording Kit (Image courtesy Thinklabs)
By Andrew Liszewski

Well here’s an iPod accessory I’ve definitely never seen at my local Apple store. Thinklabs makes this stethoscope recording package that uses a 2Gb iPod Nano in conjunction with the XtremeMac MicroMemo iPod recording unit and of course a ds32a Digital Stethoscope. All together the package allows a physician to record and playback heart sounds even in noisy environments or when the sounds are faint thanks to built-in audio amplification and noise reduction. Without the stethoscope attached it can also be used for general dictation or recording lectures.

The ds32a is a diagnostic stethoscope with unsurpassed natural sound quality. User-friendly design and 50X Amplification provides the power to adjust for faint heart sounds, obese patients, or noisy environments. Outstanding performance and ease-of-use for every clinician, with uncompromised features for advanced users. From BP to ED to ICU, from heart and lung exams to iPod recording, the ds32a does it all.

As for the price since the unit is designed for hospital use which I can only assume means it has to be of a certain level of quality and reliability the whole kit will set you back $495.

[ Stethoscope Recording Package ] VIA [ MAKE: Blog ]

Zink To Offer Miniature Ink-Free Printing


By David Ponce

Company Zink has announced the development of a printer so small, it could fit in your pocket alongside your cellphone, spare change and half-chewed gum. It would be able to print your pics without ink. How would it do this? By using some special paper.

“Images are created when a heated printer head comes into contact with a sheet of specialized paper,” which is actually a polymer containing three crystalline layers. Varying temperatures and pressure points create the pixels of color, and just in case you figure out your latest printout doesn’t showcase your eye color as well as you’d hoped, it’s recyclable.

It would be able to print small images, 2- x 3-inch, in color. The company’s first products are likely to be a $100 pocket printer, or a $200 printer/camera hybrid. The special paper isn’t that expensive, at $20 for 100.

It’s not clear just when the device might hit the shelves, though Zink will be showing off the technology at Demo ’07.

[ Tech Sheet (PDF) ] VIA [ Engadget ]

Jawbone Bluetooth Headset Uses Bone Conduction, Looks OK

jawbone headsetBy David Ponce

It’s not the first time we show you a Bluetooth headset that features bone conduction technology. The last time however, it looked like a potato tubercule that got painted charcoal. Not something you’d want to be seen coming out of your ear. The Aliph Jawbone however was designed by one Yves Behar, and actually manages to look half decent.

We’ve repeated several times that being seen walking down the street with one of these things stuck to the side of your brain makes you look like a douche (think modern bum bag). But hey, some of you are important, and really do need to be on the phone every waking second. So, you may as well get a headset that looks decent, and works well. The reason the company uses bone conduction is to filter out ambient noise; it picks up your voice through the vibrations in your skull, and not so much from the air coming out your mouth. That way, even walking down the sidewalk in Manhattan rush hour traffic, your peeps will hear you loud and clear.

It’s $120.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ Uncrate ]

Researchers Develop Mirror That Turns To Window

window mirror

By David Ponce

A window that turns into a mirror at the flick of a switch. Sounds simple enough, yet the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science & Technology (AIST) in Japan is making it sound as though it recently invented the thing. Well, we imagine they did, because we can’t prove otherwise, but damn, it just seems like such a simple thing, it ought to have already been done ages ago. Well, whatever. There you have it.

By using a thin film of magnesium-titanium alloy, the company created a prototype mirror window with the size of 60 ? 70 cm, and were able to switch it back and forth between reflective and transparent states. At the moment, the technology is ages away from being commercialized, as it still faces some hurdles. For instance, AIST is working on improving degradation of the material as a result of several cycles of switching. They are also working on simpler methods of application; as it is right now the making of the mirror requires a somewhat complicated process that can’t easily be sent into the marketplace.

While we’re thinking of a couple of hilarious pranks this sort of thing could amuse us with, AIST has more noble goals in mind, such as energy preservation in large buildings. They could also be used in car windows, to keep the vehicles cooler during hot summer months.

[ Research Summary ] VIA [ Plastic Bamboo ]

Win, Lose Or Draw Updated For 2007

Win, Lose or Draw (Image courtey firstSTREET)By Andrew Liszewski

Remember Win, Lose or Draw? It was a late 80’s/early 90’s TV game show that brought all the fun of Pictionary to the small screen without having to pay the makers of the original board game a single penny! Of course it seemed only celebrities and a weekly random “civilian” were allowed to play that version of the game but finally after only about 17 years anyone can play at home.

Like many of those Atari-in-a-joystick devices the Win, Lose or Draw home game consists of a handheld drawing pad that connects directly to the RCA hookups on your TV. (What? You were expecting HDMI?) Players can then use the pad to draw their crude representations of one of 1500 included clues while a 60 second timer ticks away. And believe it or not the website claims that as you draw on the pad the image appears instantly on the TV screen! What manner of sorcery is this I ask!?

The Win, Lose or Draw home game is available from firstSTREET for $39.95.

[ Win, Lose or Draw! Home Game ] VIA [ Uber-Review ]

PaperPro – Office Stapler Styling With Staple Gun Power

PaperPro Stapler (Image courtesy Accentra)By Andrew Liszewski

You might think that classic Swingline stapler on your desk is doing a great job but that’s only because you haven’t been introduced to the PaperPro. Where as the Swingline would probably choke on a stack of 20 pages the PaperPro uses a series of levers and springs similar to a staple gun to give it quite a bit of extra kick. You still of course need to manually push down on top of the stapler to make it work but your own force is amplified by the PaperPro’s mechanics meaning you don’t have to push as hard as you would with a traditional model. (They claim stapling 20 sheets of paper is about 80 percent easier with the PaperPro.)

The designers of the PaperPro didn’t cop out on other features either. It has a squared nose allowing it to sit vertically on your desk when needed, has a depth of up to 4.5″ allowing you to staple the middle of an 8-1/2×11 piece of paper and even has a window that lets you conveniently see how many staples are remaining.

The PaperPro is currently available from Amazon for $18.17.

[ PaperPro Stapler ] VIA [ Smart Stuff ]

Motiwake Motivational Alarm Clock

Motiwake Alarm Clock (Image courtesy Motiwake)By Andrew Liszewski

If your office or cubicle is covered in those daily affirmation or motivational posters then you’re probably already convinced about the power of positive thinking. But why wait till you get to work to start your mental ‘programming’? The Motiwake alarm clock can get those empowering thoughts going first thing in the morning as it wakes you up. It includes over 240 spoken affirmations that can be played alongside a relaxing piece of music to ensure you get out of bed ready to make the most of your day. It also has a picture frame (the old-school kind) if you need some visual reinforcement too.

The Motiwake is available for about $60 but if you don’t need the full alarm clock you can just buy the assorted affirmations as MP3 files (about $33) or have them delivered via a text message service to your mobile phone (about $25 per personal conflict.)

[ Motiwake Alarm Clock ] VIA [ Shiny Shiny ]

Today’s Top Tech: AllFreeCalls Lets You Do Just That

allfreecallsBy David Ponce

The real Top Story? Come on! Windows Vista’s in store. Go spend some money.

Now, let’s just start by saying this isn’t, for once, about VoIP. This is about ridiculous regulatory loopholes, and how some clever folks are able to exploit something (or someone… no one’s really sure), to give consumers a cool (free!) product, at least for the moment. If you’ve always wanted to make free calls to one of 41 specific countries from your mobile, or landline, you’re in luck. AllFreeCalls gives you an Iowa number to call (712-858-8094). Once you’ve called it, you can then dial your destination number free of charge or time restrictions, provided it’s one of the supported countries. The only cost to you might be the long distance to Iowa, though several cellular providers have nixed long distance charges within the US. There’s nothing to install, no need for a PC, a hotspot, EDGE, 3G or whatever. It uses the POTS, and some dumb laws. Apparently.

Here’s how we think it works. There seems to be some sort of regulation in Iowa that gives rural telcos a kickback for every call received… Yeah, they get money for you to call them (go figure). And that amount happens to be larger than what it costs them to patch you through to your destinations, so they can operate in the black. Supported countries include Australia, Belgium, and Bengladesh, to only name a few. It’s not clear exactly who is giving the telco these kickbacks, just what the specific legislation is, nor whether it’s the taxpayer that’s picking up the tab in the end (it probably is). But, well, who cares, right?

Check it out while it still works. Bureaucrats have a knack for clamping down on free.

[ AllFreeCalls ] VIA [ Techcrunch ]