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Monthly Archives: October 2007

Freecom MusicPal Wireless Digital Radio

Freecom MusicPal (Image courtesy Freecom)By Andrew Liszewski

It’s true that a lot of podcasts and online-only radio stations sound pretty crappy, but you’d probably be surprised how many ‘real’ radio stations actually broadcast online, as well as over-the-air. And that’s probably the reason we’re seeing so many ‘internet-capable’ radios popping up. The latest from Freecom is called the MusicPal and all it needs is a wifi connection to access one of over 5,000 supported online radio stations.

Of course if you happen to have a PC full of MP3s (or WAVs) on the same network as the MusicPal, it can stream and play those files as well. It also works as an alarm clock, waking you up to your favorite station or presumably song of choice. And if the built-in speaker isn’t loud enough to wake you the MusicPal also has an audio output jack for connecting to your home stereo. The inverted black and white display can even be used to read the occasional RSS feed, but I wouldn’t exactly use it to replace my dedicated feed reader.

At $149 it’s a bit more expensive than your standard radio alarm clock, but when you consider you probably don’t live in a market with 5,000 over-the-air radio stations at your disposal, it might be worth it for variety alone.

[ Freecom MusicPal ] VIA [ Shiny Shiny ]

Digidesign Mbox 2 Micro

Mbox 2 Micro (Images courtesy Digidesign)
By Andrew Liszewski

Digidesign and Avid are pretty much the big players when it comes to professional audio and video editing. And while high-end systems running their software can cost hundreds of thousand of dollars, in recent years they’ve started providing more affordable editing solutions for portable systems like laptops. The Mbox 2 Micro is the smallest member of their Mbox 2 family and provides a convenient way to get high-quality audio output from your laptop, which is essential when editing or mixing audio.

About the size of a typical USB flash drive, Mbox 2 Micro offers high-quality 24-bit / 48 kHz sound, a 1/8-inch stereo output for headphone or speaker monitoring (no audio inputs*), and a convenient volume wheel, providing you with the freedom of true editing, sequencing, and mixing mobility. Whether you’re looking to work on studio-created or live sound Pro Tools sessions on the go, or create loop-based or virtual instrument-driven music, Mbox 2 Micro lets you work wherever inspiration takes you.

The Micro includes Pro Tools LE editing and mixing software which is a light version of the company’s flagship product, but still allows you to open and edit projects created in the full versions. The idea is to provide users with an on-the-go solution for those times when they need to be able to work, but are away from their studios.

The Mbox 2 Micro is expected to be available in early November from authorized Digidesign dealers for $279.

[ Digidesign Mbox 2 Micro ] VIA [ Everything USB ]

RoboDevelopment: ViPR Visual Pattern Recognition


By Evan Ackerman

Even though the RoboDevelopment Conference was primarily about, well, robots, there was a lot of potential crossover technology that has huge applications for consumer electronics. One of the most impressive of these that I saw was the ViPR pattern recognition technology, under development by Evolution Robotics. ViPR uses a camera (like the one you probably have in your cellphone) to look for distinctive patterns in an image. For example, a piece of text would be a distinctive pattern of pixels that the software could then translate into a meaningful letter. But the technology goes way beyond that: whenever you see something, your brain is recognizing a distinctive pattern of light and saying “hey, that’s a tree!” or “hey, I’m in my living room!” Your brain can do this even if it’s seeing only a piece of an object, or seeing a place from a different perspective. ViPR is capable of making the same sort of inferences. It works with >80% accuracy at recognizing objects or places, even when it’s dark or when it has to deal with distortion. It can identify an object when up to 90% of the object isn’t visible. Basically, this lets electronics “see” in a meaningful manner, much in the same way that we do.

Applications for the ViPR system are everywhere. The military is using it to look for guys holding RPGs, since an RPG has a distinctive visual pattern that ViPR can identify, even if the RPG is being held at an angle and partially concealed at a distance in low light. Current commercial uses (in Europe, mostly) include ViPR acting as a tour guide on your cellphone: take a picture of a landmark, and your cellphone will recognize it and provide information. What I’d personally like to see is the integration of ViPR with Google Street View to provide a highly accurate urban pseudo-GPS system. All you would do would be to take a picture of where you were, the ViPR system would query Google’s Street View database and find a matching pattern, and you’d get your location back. Easy, right? Well, they’re working on it… They just need to get some major companies (cough Google cough) actively interested.

[ Evolution Robotics ViPR ]

OhGizmo! Review – Lexmark X4550 All-In-One Wireless Printer

Lexmark X4550 All-In-One Wireless Printer (Image courtesy Lexmark)By Andrew Liszewski

While a truly ‘paperless office’ is still many years away, it seems a completely wireless one is almost within our reach. As long as you ignore the need for power cords, you can pretty much eliminate all the other wires through the use of cell phones, bluetooth and of course wifi.

The latest devices to at least cut one of their cords are printers. Thanks again to wifi, those annoying and limiting parallel port, USB and network cables are a thing of the past. While I have seen wifi printers in stores before, Lexmark seems to be the first manufacturer to be really gung-ho about the idea, and have released an entire line of affordable wifi printers with no extra hardware or adapters needed.

I had a chance to look at the Lexmark X4550 All-In-One printer which is one of the company’s first wireless models. You can read my impressions and full review after the jump, or just look at the pictures if you feel you’ve already done enough reading for the day, I’ll understand.

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Aromatherapy Pens Probably Not As Satisfying As A Sharpie

Aromatherapy Pen

By Evan Ackerman

I was never much of a Play-Doh eater when I was a kid. No, my drug of choice from kindergarten through- uh, well, let’s not get in to that- was the Sharpie, whose pungent scent is currently clearing my sinuses. Mmmmm, yeah baby. If you’re the type who is always searching for a new high, you can always try one of these Swiss Aromatherapy Pens. The pens have regular ballpoint tips, and a scent-dispensing roller ball at the other end that you can use to bestow a “soft, subtle scent to a pulse point or to seal a letter.” Because, you know, writing that smells is always taken seriously. Scents include rose, mint, grapefruit, eucalyptus, ginger, lavender, and orange. The pens are $50 each, a set of refills is $28, and having people look at you strangely while you obsessively sniff your pens is, of course, priceless.

[ Aromatherapy Pens ] VIA [ Crave ]

Special Edition Electrolux Ultrasilencer Vacuum

Electrolux Special Edition Ultrasilencer Vacuum (Images courtesy Electrolux)
By Andrew Liszewski

The Ultrasilencer from Electrolux is apparently one of the quietest vacuums on the market (that actually has some sucking power) and the company has recently announced a ‘special edition’ version that was customized by designer Pia Wallén. Presumably that’s her on the right, and not Sarah Electrolux, a fictional person I just made up who invented the electrolux vacuum.

Her inspiration for the stark white design actually came from how quiet the vacuum really is. “It reminded her of the most beautiful sound she knows – the sound of falling snow.” Personally, I prefer the sound of one hand clapping, or a tree falling in the woods when I’m not around to hear it. And to be honest I’m not sure how much ‘design’ it really takes to remove all the color from an existing product (or add all the colors for you science-types) but if you prefer your home to have that ultra-modern look, you should really think about swapping that old Hoover for one of these.

The Ultrasilencer was released on September 20 in the UK, October 1 in Norway and Finland and October 5 in Sweden. Unfortunately though, there’s no plans to release it in North America.

[ Electrolux Ultrasilencer Special Edition ] VIA [ Yanko Design ]

Spider-Man 3 Pumpkin Bomb Replica

Spider-Man 3 Pumpkin Bomb Replica (Image courtesy Entertainment Earth)By Andrew Liszewski

After seeing the movie, I’m not really sure why anyone would want to even remember Spider-Man 3, let alone dress up as one of the characters. But if you’ve already settled with going out as the Green Goblin on the 31st (since the Sandman costume proved too messy) these pumpkin bomb replicas should finish your outfit off nicely.

While these particular pumpkin bombs do not explode, or fly, or have sawblades like the ones seen in the movie, they are the same size and scale as the film props (5 inches in diameter) and have the same light-up design.

Unfortunately you might want to put that Green Goblin costume in the closet until next year, since the pumpkin bomb replicas won’t be available until at least March 2008. And even then they’ll be limited to just 1,000 pieces and will set you back $124.99 each.

[ Spider-Man 3 Pumpkin Bomb Replica ] VIA [ Nerd Approved ]

Two-Person, Three-Wheeled Scooter Coupe

Two-Person Three-Wheeled Scooter Coupe (Image courtesy Hammacher Schlemmer)By Andrew Liszewski

I don’t know if I’d feel that safe taking something like this out on the road alongside full-sized cars and trucks, but I know I’d have fun doing it. (I’m pretty sure it’s not street legal anyways.) This two-person ‘scooter coupe’ as they call it has a top speed of 30mph thanks to its 50cc air-cooled four-stroke engine. When it comes to fuel efficiency it can get about 60-80 mpg, and has a 1-1/2 gallon fuel tank giving it a range of about 100 miles.

When carrying two riders there’s a weight limit of about 400lbs total, and both the driver and passenger are secured with a two-point restraint seatbelt. Other features include all-wheel suspension with shock absorbers, front disc brakes and rear drum brakes, front, side and rear turn signals, headlights, folding side mirrors and a chrome dashboard with a fuel gauge and speedometer.

The Scooter Coupe is currently available from Hammacher Schlemmer in red, yellow, blue or green for $5,999.95 and I really can’t think of a better stocking stuffer this Christmas. (Too soon?)

[ Two-Person Three-Wheeled Scooter Coupe ]

Gas-Powered RC Car Reaches 60MPH!

Ford GT RC Car

By Luke Anderson

You might think that remote controlled cars are for kids, however, when they can reach speeds of 60MPH, they cease being toys and become high-tech man gadgets. At least that’s how I try and justify it in my head.

This gas-powered RC car is a 1 to 5 scale replica of a Ford GT, which is a car known for its speed. The car sports a 23cc engine with a 15kb metal gear ratio and disc brakes. I’m almost positive that this little guy has more power than the old Geo that I once owned. You can pick one of these up for $649, which is strangely close to the price I paid for that old Geo…

[Wowzzers] VIA [Born Rich]