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Monthly Archives: February 2010

Self-Righting Dominoes Take All The Fun Out Of It

By Evan Ackerman

The reason that dominoes are so much fun to knock over is that they take so much effort to set up. This is doubly true if someone else does all the setting up, and you knock them all over by “accident.” This sculpture, by artist Karl Lautman, makes the whole thing moot by doing the setting up and knocking down in one unbroken cycle. Appropriately, it’s called Ouroborus, after the mythical serpent who had the genius idea of continually eating its own tail at the same rate that its front half was growing, providing an endless source of food (and, one has to assume, entertainment).

I can’t attest to how the serpent pulls it off, but the sculpture relies on each domino being attached to a solenoid by some polyester threads in the base. A microcontroller fires off the solenoids in sequence to haul the dominoes back up at the same rate as they topple, which (in case you were wondering) is apparently a crazy hard number to calculate. If anyone wants to work through that, feel free, or just find yourself a bunch of dominoes, a ruler, and a stopwatch.

[ Karl Lautman ] VIA [ Boing Boing ]

Turn Your iPhone Into An IR Remote With This New Case


By Chris Scott Barr

Some days it really does seem like the iPhone has an app for everything. Heck, if the phone lacks a piece of hardware that you’d need to accomplish something, there’s an accessory for it. At CES we saw the L5 IR Remote Dongle, which (as the name implies) turns your phone into an IR remote. While I thought the idea was good, a dongle like that is just asking to get lost or broken. A better solution is this iPhone case from Power A which adds the same functionality, only in a case.

The Power A iPhone Universal Remote Case is a rather ordinary-looking case, except for the larger bottom portion. This is where the IR remote is stored, which is connected through the standard iPod connector. As for software, you’ll be able to download a free app that will allow you to control virtually any device that uses an IR receiver. The case will be on sale sale soon for $60.

[ Power A ] VIA [ Geeky-Gadgets ]

Lightsaber Flash Drives

Lightsaber Flash Drives (Images courtesy ThinkGeek)
By Andrew Liszewski

They’re only 1GB in size, which is not a lot of storage for $19.99 these days, but something tells me ThinkGeek is going to sell millions of these Japanese Lightsaber USB flash drives. They’re officially licensed Lucasfilm collectibles, and they’re available in either a glowing red Darth Vader model, or a glowing green Luke Skywalker one, but I’m going to assume you’re not even reading this post anymore and are already in the process of placing your order at ThinkGeek.

[ Japanese Lightsaber USB Thumbdrive ]

Lace-amatic Saves You From Ever Having To Tie A Shoelace Again

Lace-amatic (Image courtesy Lace-amatic)
By Andrew Liszewski

These days putting an ‘i’ in front of a product name makes it sound particularly high-tech and cutting edge, but back in the day, sticking ‘amatic’ at the end had the same effect. So it’s interesting that the makers of the Lace-amatic chose to go old school, instead of calling it the ‘iLace’ to keep up with the Joneses.

Either way, you’re supposed to run your laces through the clear plastic device and then tie them like normal, though with a slightly looser fit. Then once your foot is in the shoe you turn a lever which twists the laces, tightening the shoe around your foot. They’re just $9.99 for a set, though oddly enough they only seem to be available in the British Columbia area, so if you’re lucky enough to be at the Olympic games right now, you should be able to find them.

[ Lace-amatic ] VIA [ Coolest Gadgets ]

Astri MyID Dual Screen eBook Reader

Astri MyID Dual Screen eBook Reader (Image courtesy Nate's Ebook News)
By Andrew Liszewski

I’m still on the hunt for what I consider to be the perfect ebook reader, and with Qualcomm’s Mirasol display technology still a few months away from being available on a consumer-ready product, I think I’m at the point where I just want something cheap to tide me over. And the My Internet Device, or MyID for short, from Astri, could be a contender.

The device incorporates both a 5-inch e-ink display as well as a 4.8-inch LCD touchscreen, and if you’re thinking that sounds kind of small, you’re right. But as you can see in the hands-on video below from Nate’s Ebook News, it still looks completely usable, and extra pocket-friendly.

The device runs Android, has Flash support which seems to be a hot topic at the moment, and is capable of displaying full screen video on the LCD which has a respectable resolution of 800×480. It’s also able to open multiple ebooks at one time, allowing you to flip between them using a jog wheel located between the two displays. According to Astri, the parts used in the prototype only cost about $65, so they’re aiming for a retail price of about $130 to $150 when the device eventually hits the market.

[ Nate’s Ebook News – Hands on video of the Astri dual screen reader ] VIA [ SlashGear ]

Factor 001 – What You Get When Formula 1 Engineers Design A Bike Without Restrictions

Factor 001 (Image courtesy BERU f1systems)
By Andrew Liszewski

It has to be frustrating being an engineer who designs Formula 1 racing components given all the restrictions and limitations imposed by the ‘sport’s’ governing body. So it’s not surprising that they occasionally have the desire to throw off the shackles of their F1 overlords and design something that’s all about performance, and not about conforming to regulations. And in this case it’s the Factor 001 road bike designed by BERU f1systems, which is quite possibly the most technologically advanced bicycle ever created. Here’s just a few snippets about what’s gone into the making of the bike, and why you might want one.

Factor 001 has a lightweight and highly rigid carbon fibre monocoque structure. Its unique twin-vein architecture can be adjusted to within a millimetre to suit the rider’s measurements and typical riding position. In keeping with the frame’s robust design, the bike’s eight-spoke carbon composite wheels are capable of reliably negotiating tough road conditions. The bike also features the world class Shimano Di2 electronic gear shift, and customers can opt for carbon ceramic disc brakes.

Packed with BERU f1systems’ patented technology, the bike’s frame contains highly sophisticated load sensors, wiring, batteries, control cables and lines for its hydraulic braking system, all of which are fully integrated into the composite during construction to give unparalleled efficiency with a clean, uncluttered appearance.

Physical structure aside, the multi-channel electronics package available with the bike has unique ergonometric data collection, logging and analysis capabilities. It can simultaneously correlate biometric data from the ride, physical force data from the bike and environmental data to offer a level of analysis previously only available under laboratory conditions. Riders can record everything from skin temperature and respiration rate to atmospheric pressure and humidity and individual leg power output. The individual channels of data can be displayed on the LCD touch screen, all of which are logged and can be downloaded for post-ride analysis. The rider can configure each screen to display his/her preferred parameters, and the system allows the rider to easily switch between screens whilst riding.

But what’s an impressive technological masterpiece without an equally impressive price tag? Well thankfully the Factor 001 doesn’t disappoint there either. The fully tricked out version of the bike will be available in April to a select number of buyers for about $42,000. (£27,000)

[ Factor 001 ] VIA [ Autoblog ]

Apparently AT&T Actually Does Have The Fastest 3G Network


By Chris Scott Barr

AT&T has received a lot of grief over their 3G speed and reliability, mostly from iPhone users. Being an iPhone user myself, I tend to agree with such statements. It’s usually not too bad, unless you’re in a crowded area where other people may be sucking up the bandwidth. While I can’t make any direct comparisons, my Sprint 3G card consistently loads pages on my laptop faster than my phone’s 3G connection through AT&T. What’s interesting is that a recent PC World test of the four major carriers, AT&T came out on top for speed and reliability for 3G.

In almost every city tested, AT&T had faster upload and download speeds than the other three carriers. In fact, on average they were 67 percent faster. It sounds like Apple might not be so crazy for sticking it out with AT&T. Granted, their coverage map is still a bit spotty, which means most areas aren’t able to see this awesome speeds.

VIA [ PC World ]

Alphie’s Back – Now With More Expressions!

Alphie (Images courtesy Gearlog & The Metal Misfit)
By Andrew Liszewski

Alphie II was another one of those 80’s toys I never owned, but it still brings back fond memories of my childhood. It was a robot-looking learning toy that used index cards and a series of buttons to teach math, colors and other basic skills, with a healthy mix of robotic sound effects thrown in for good measure. Now those of you who owned an Alphie II might have assumed he died a slow death buried in the back of your closet, but it turns out he’s back! And slightly better than ever!

The new Alphie’s biggest upgrade is an LCD display where his light-up eyes used to be, providing him with a wider range of facial expressions instead of just the goofy grin of his predecessors. He’s also learned to talk, though the upgrades seem to stop there since he’s apparently still content to rely on buttons and index cards which teach everything from the alphabet to rhyming to animal names and countless other preschool-friendly lessons. He’ll be available sometime in the Fall for $39.99 and will come with 30 double-sided index cards which include over 350 questions and challenges.

[ Gearlog – Toy Fair 2010: Hasbro Toy Previews ]

Star Wars C-3PO And Boba Fett Backpacks Make Me Wish I Could Go Back To Grade School Again

Star Wars Backpacks (Images courtesy The Official Star Wars Blog)
By Andrew Liszewski

A lot of my friends have decided to go back to college or university to further their educations, but I’ve always wondered if I could go back to grade school instead. Not only would I rock every test and quiz, but I’d get to play dodgeball again and enjoy the lost art of recess. And if that ever comes to pass, I’ll definitely be sporting one of these Star Wars backpacks that Comic Images was showing off at Toy Fair.

The C-3PO in pieces from Empire Strikes Back seems like an obvious design for Lucasfilm to overlook, as does the Boba Fett rocket pack. Sadly the missile doesn’t fire, and the rockets don’t work, and there’s probably a good chance I’ll get beat up in the back corner of the playground for wearing either of them. (Sniff) Ah grade school…

[ The Official Star Wars Blog – Comic Images at Toy Fair ]