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Monthly Archives: June 2011

I Might Not Have A Need For A 20-Foot, $350,000 Animatronic Triceratops Now, But Who Knows What The Future Holds?

Animatronic Triceratops (Image courtesy Hammacher Schlemmer)
By Andrew Liszewski

My gut instinct is that I can probably do without this 20-foot animatronic Triceratops available from none other than Hammacher Schlemmer. But I’m worried that if I don’t act now, I might not find one again at the low, low price of just $350,000. Especially one that was featured at the The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and is not only animated, but actually responds to motion and onlookers.

Motion-activated cameras installed into each eye work in unison with customized interactive software that enables the Cretaceous creature to recognize multiple subjects’ facial features. Once identified, subjects’ tracked movements trigger a set of responses: it sways its tri-horned head right, left, up, and down, stomps and scuffs its right forelimb, and opens its jaws while growling–all powered by digitally controlled servos and silent, pneumatic air-activated cams. Its exterior is crafted by professional sculptors from polyurethane foam and textured silicone over a steel and aluminum frame, replicating the beast’s massive horned frill, powerful hindquarters, and tapered tail with convincing realism. The rumbles that issue from a hidden 1,000-watt speaker are based on paleontological approximations of what sounds the original 67 million year-old saurian might have vocalized.

And even though I don’t have a license to charge people admission to see it, I still think it would make for a better alternative to a garden gnome.

[ Hammacher Schlemmer – The 20 Foot Animatronic Triceratops ] VIA [ The Green Head ]

DeLorme’s inReach Handheld GPS Can Send Emergency SMS Messages

DeLorme inReach (Images courtesy DeLorme)
By Andrew Liszewski

GPS-equipped smartphones have slowly been replacing dedicated GPS units because quite frankly, they just do more. But DeLorme is making a strong case for still carrying a separate GPS navigation device, particularly their new inReach which allows you to send SMS messages using the Iridium satellite phone system. From basically anywhere on Earth. Because it’s clearly lacking a keyboard or touchscreen display, the inReach allows you to create three different emergency messages before you head out on your adventure. Then when things go wrong you can send the one that’s most appropriate for your dire situation. When the SOS indicator light on the inReach changes color, you’ll know that your message was received and that help is on the way.

The inReach can also be paired with an Android smartphone, allowing you to send 160 character messages as emails, SMS, or even update Facebook and Twitter with your recent exploits, or a final goodbye if you’re in real trouble. The device also sends your location data back to the DeLorme servers where friends and family can track your location online. The service will start at $9.95 per month for basic safety, and goes up from there if you need the advanced messaging and tracking. As for the price of the hardware and availability? Currently unknown.

[ DeLorme inReach—two-way satellite communication ] VIA [ Werd & Wired Gadget Lab ]

Simple Silicone ‘Link’ Kitchen Tool Turns (Almost) Any Two Items Into Tongs

Link Kitchen Tool (Images courtesy studio dreimann)
By Andrew Liszewski

Once again it’s the simplest of gadgets that seem like they could completely change your life. Well, maybe that’s getting a bit carried away. But I still think the Link, created by Konstantin Slawinski of Hannover, Germany-based studio dreimann, is brilliantly clever. It’s a moulded piece of soft silicone with a couple of X-shaped slots that let you insert any two kitchen utensils, turning them into a pair of tongs. Genius! So instead of having to buy the right tool for the job, which may end up buried in a drawer most of the time, you can simply build one yourself from what you already have on hand. So if anyone has any idea where this can be purchased, we’re all ears.

[ Link ] VIA [ BLTD ]

Statuesque Speaker Lets You Camouflage Your Gear

Richard Grant Statuesque Speaker (Images courtesy Richard Grant)
By Andrew Liszewski

While I don’t subscribe to it, I can understand that not everyone is happy with their home looking like NASA’s mission control. But sometimes you can’t easily hide a piece of electronics without compromising its functionality. So in those cases you need to employ the age old art of camouflage, like profesional prop builder Richard Grant has done with this large floor speaker that looks like a fine Italian sculpture.

There’s no photos of it, but behind the dead stare of this bearded chap you’ll find the speaker’s cones, which presumably work just as well when they’re pointed away from the room. It certainly makes for a lovely piece of art on its own, but I have to wonder if having five of these starting at you in a surround sound setup would be too creepy. Available for purchase soon, though pricing info has not yet been divulged.

[ Richard Grant – Statuesque Speaker ] VIA [ Apartment Therapy Unplggd ]

Deal Of The Day: Dell Inspiron One, All-In-One Machine For $500

By David Ponce

All-in-ones are interesting machines, if only because they look like they’re trying to please you. It’s like they’re saying, “hey, like me, because everything you need is in one place!” And indeed, we have been known to show our affections to a few. The model currently on special, the Dell Inspiron One 2305, was going for $649 six months ago. That price has now dropped to $500 with today’s $100 coupon. For that price, you’re buying a 23-inch machine with “dual-core AMD processors and ATI HD4270 graphics but upgradable to multi-touch display, quad-core processors, dedicated graphics and more.” Here’s what one reviewer had to say about it:

“Dell’s higher-end Inspiron One 2305 has everything we’d look for in a home entertainment PC. It’s not the fastest computer out there, but it’s capable where it counts, and even plays some games. Forgive Dell’s intrusive bundled backup software and you’ll walk away with one of the better Windows-based all-in-ones available.”

[ Dell Inspiron One, All-In-One Machine For $500 ] VIA [ ]

Diamond VStream Wireless Video Streamer Reviewed. Verdict: Hassle-free 1080p HD Streaming

By Paul McCollum

One of the few things we are missing, here in the future, (besides our rocket skates) is high quality wireless video. Audio compression has made great advances but video is lagging, literally. Several companies have released products in the past few years but all have been plagued with connection problems or bandwidth issues. Diamond’s new Wireless USB variant, VStream Wireless HD Video Streamer, may finally have all the components to deliver high definition video without wires or the headaches.

The VStream consists of a compact receiver for connecting to an HDMI input on your TV and an even more compact USB dongle to plug into your PC. The slim Certified Wireless USB transmitter sends video data over Ultrawideband to the remote unit to bypass any Wi-Fi traffic. The same dongle can also flex up to 90 degrees to best angle to the receiver. Since Windows recognizes VStream as another DisplayLink’s USB monitor, you won’t run into any problems streaming NetFlix, Hulu and YouTube to your HDTV. DisplayLink driver, however, isn’t HDCP compliant so Blu-ray and iTunes movies won’t work with VStream. In terms of picture quality, there’s some bit-grate degradation at 1080p, but you will have to be comparing the wired HDMI and VStream to really see the difference. For sale at roughly $108, it is definitely competitive in the space. Detailed video quality and wireless range data is available at Everything USB.

[Full Review @ Everything USB]

Save Yourself Hundreds Of Dollars And Opt For Yamaha’s TENORI-ON App Instead

TNR-i (Images courtesy Yamaha)
By Andrew Liszewski

Last time I checked, Yamaha’s TENORI-ON digital sequencer was selling on their site for $699. A far cry from the device’s original $1,000+ price tag, but still way too expensive for the musically un-inclined like myself. So if you’ve already got an iPhone or an iPad, you can save yourself $679.01 and pick up Yamaha’s new TNR-i app for just $19.99. It’s a software-only version of their TENORI-ON that recreates the instrument’s 16×16 grid of glowing buttons on your touchscreen device.

And while it might not be as full-featured as the original version, TNR-i is still capable of playing back up to 16 different sounds at the same time, on up to 16 different layers. The various performance modes also appear to still be here, including using it like a standard multi-track sequencer with sounds arranged and played back horizontally, and pitch affected by their vertical location. But taking advantage of the iPhone and iPad’s online capabilities, TNR-i also one-ups the original version by letting up to 4 people connect and perform together at the same time, even if they’re not in the same location.

[ iTunes App Store – TNR-i ] VIA [ AppShopper ]

Star Wars: The Blueprints

Star Wars: The Blueprints (Images courtesy Epic Ink)
By Andrew Liszewski

While there have been many books over the years that contained blueprints of the fictional ships and weaponry in the Star Wars universe, this is the first to include the original blueprints used for the creation of the sets and props of all six films. Pulled from the Lucasfilm Archives, the blueprints are accompanied by commentary from author J. W. Rinzler and provide an in-depth look at the art and science behind the filming and post-production of the epic sci-fi series.

Most importantly, Blueprints shows how in bringing this extraordinary epic to life, the world of special effects as we know it was born. For the first time, here you will see the initial concepts behind such iconic Star Wars scenes as the Rebel blockade runner hallways, the bridge of General Grievous’s flagship, the interior of the fastest “hunk of junk” in the Galaxy, and Jabba the Hutt’s palace. Never before seen craftsmanship and artistry is evident whether floating on the Death Star, escaping on a speeder bike, or exploring the Tatooine Homestead.

Star Wars: The Blueprints will only be available in a limited edition, hand-numbered run of 5,000 copies. The first 125 are signed by the Academy-Award winning Art Directors for the original Star Wars film: Norman Reynolds, Les Dilley and set dresser Roger Christian, and will set you back a cool grand. While the remaining 4,875 copies are just $500 each.

[ Star Wars: The Blueprints ] VIA [ Coudal ]

Like It Or Not, Elmo Will Be Back This Christmas, And Now With Instruments

Let's Rock Elmo (Image courtesy Hasbro)
By Andrew Liszewski

Those of you with kids are probably getting tired of trying to hunt down the latest iteration of Sesame Street’s Elmo every December. But I’m happy to report that things will be different this Christmas. Not only will you be hunting down the new ‘Let’s Rock Elmo’ toy, but also the various instruments he’s now able to interact with. Which are of course sold separately.

Out of the box Elmo’s able to rock out with his included tambourine, microphone and drums, which he’ll automatically recognize when placed in his hands. Once he’s mastered those he can move onto a guitar and even a keyboard. And since he’s so talented Elmo even has a unique song for every instrument he’s given, which you can guarantee will be stuck in your head after the first day. Kids can of course play along too using his instruments, that is if you manage to find him when he goes on sale in the Fall for $69.99.

And as an added bit of corporate trivia: Rock On Elmo is apparently the first Elmo toy to be available under the Hasbro brand who recently won the Sesame Street license from their rival Mattel, who’s represented the property for the past 15 years.

[ NYC Single Mom – Hasbro Previews New Toys for 2011 ]