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Category Archives: Innovation

Phase Change Memory Is The New Hotness

Phase Change Memory

By Evan Ackerman

It’s only been, what, about six years since 3.5″ floppy disks were the epitome of non-volatile rewritable memory? Flash memory changed everything for the oh so much better, but if Samsung (and Intel) have their way, we’re going to be seeing a new type of memory as soon as next year. It’s called phase-change memory, or PRAM. Made from the same materials as rewritable CDs and DVDs, PRAM stores bits (the equivalent of 1s and 0s) by changing a glass alloy between crystalline and amorphous states with the application of heat.

Intel PRAMCompared to flash, PRAM writes about 500 times faster while using half the power, is 1000 times more durable, and can be packed into a much denser area. PRAM also has significantly higher radiation resistance for those of you who work in nuclear power plants or outer space. So what’s the downside? Well, although it’s actually simpler to manufacture (in general) than flash, PRAM can’t be soldered after being programmed since it’s sensitive to high temperatures. This means that manufacturers are going to have to add a method of programming the PRAM after it’s been soldered to a circuit board. PRAM also requires a higher writing voltage than flash does.

My guess is that, due to the obvious advantages, PRAM is going to start replacing flash in the same way that flash is now replacing magnetic storage. It’s not gonna be quick, but it’s probably inevitable. There’s no information on pricing or availability of the first production units, but it’s rumored that we could start seeing some of this technology become available by 2008.

[ Samsung Press Release ] VIA [ CNet ]

Flashlight Induces Vomiting

flashlight.jpg
By Ryan Nill

Developed for Homeland Security, this brand new flashlight uses a series of oscillating LEDs to induce nausea and eventual vomiting. It is designed by Intelligent Optical Systems as part of a push for nonlethal weaponry. The flashlight works by first flashing extremely brightly and then flickering a series of bright LEDs, filtering through several colors and brightnesses to create “psychophysical effects.” The desired results is to first blind you, then induce feelings of nausea and vertigo, eventually ending in compulsive vomiting. Fun stuff indeed. Of course, one drawback to this is that the flashlight is easily countered by closing your eyes, looking away and/or wearing tinted sunglasses. Also noteworthy is the adverse effect it could have on those with epilepsy or similar conditions; the oscillating light could trigger dangerous and violent seizures in some.

It is currently not on the market, although Intelligent Optical Systems, Inc. intends to start testing this product on volunteers at PENN state. The ultimate intent of all this is to have urban police, border-security agents, and the National Guard be armed with the new flashlight by 2010.

[ Intelligent Optical Systems, Inc. ] VIA [ gizmodo ]

Microvision Signs with Motorola for Pico Projector Phones

Microvision Signs with Motorola for Pico Projector phone
By Shane McGlaun

Back during CES we talked a bit about the Pico Projector from Microvision and how cool it would be to project your content from your phone onto a wall or other surface for big screen viewing. At the time the Pico Projector wasn’t slated to go into a phone, but today Microvision has announced that they have signed an agreement with Motorola to integrate the Pico Projector into future Motorola products. The PicoP is an ultra-miniature laser based display engine that will enable big screen viewing for mobile devices.

While the details of the agreement weren’t disclosed, the two companies did say that they were working together to integrate the PicoP into a working handset for demo purposes. The prototype phone will use the new WVGA, 854 x 480 pixel wide angle scanner that Microvision introduced at the May 2007 Society of Information Display conference. Looks like we are one step closer to throwing the streaming TV some cellular providers offer onto a screen actually big enough to enjoy.

Via Microvision

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Olympus Develops 360 Degree Camera Lens

olympus 360 degree lens By David Ponce

Every now and then, R&D departments spew out prototypes that look promising enough that we can imagine them making their way into finished products one day. Recently, Olympus has announced the development of an “Axial symmetrical free curved surface lens”. This lens is capable of gathering light from 360 degrees horizontally and 45 degrees vertically, and focusing it on a CCD without the use of other lenses. While only a prototype at the moment, possible uses for the lens include security cameras… and extreme sports.

Yeah, there are other 360 cameras on the market. But if our understanding is right, the innovation in this case is that the one lens does all the focusing, negating the need for extra lenses, and allowing the manufacturing of more compact devices. Of course, we’re gleaming this from a Spanish article, and a translated Japanese page. So if any Japanese native speakers can help us out, you’d enlighten a whole bunch in the process.

[ Press Release (Translated from Japanese) ] VIA [ Xataka ]

Polymer Armor Becomes Hard On Contact

[ This did the rounds a while back, and we didn’t cover it. We should have, it’s damn cool. It’s making the rounds again, for some reason, so here it is. -Ed. ]

By Evan Ackerman

If you’ve ever played with a cornstarch and water mixture, you know how totally bizarre dilatant materials are: they flow like a liquid until you apply force to them, which causes them to thicken instantly. Seems like a great idea for some armor that’s flexible when you want it to be, yet protective when necessary… It’s too bad that no matter how many gallons of oobleck you pour over yourself, it just won’t stick. British company d3o has been able to polymerize oobleck into a smart material that’s squishy but not too squishy until you pound it with something, at which point it turns instantly rigid. The US Olympic Ski Team used d3o material in their ski suits in Torino, and you adventurous winter types can currently buy hats and gloves with d3o linings. Of course, d3o hats aren’t going to be able to give you as much protection as a conventional helmet, but some protection is definitely a few million brain cells better than no protection.

[ d3o ] VIA [ Spluch ]

Microsoft Surface: “It’s Real And It’s Spectacular!”

In the dead of the night, Microsoft has taken the wraps off Surface, formerly known only as Project Milan. MS Surface is a surface computing device, one which could very well change the way we expect to interact with technology. “Surface computing device” really means that it’s a touch-sensitive table, with a powerful PC inside, and fancy software running. But the things it can do are stunning. It allows you to manipulate digital pictures as if they were right there in front of you, while resizing on-the-fly. It interacts with other devices, such as Zune’s and cellphone, allowing you to drag multiple “objects” into them, be them pictures, songs, maps, itineraries or calendar items. It recognizes the object with which it is being touched, allowing you to use paintbrushes, pencils or other tools the way they’re intended to be used. The list go on for some time.

Right now, the technology is aimed squarely at hotels, retail establishments, restaurants and public entertainment venues where the use of such hardware could revolutionize point-of-sale dynamic for some time to come. Things like placing an order in a restaurant, or splitting a bill in a particular way become possible in a way never before experienced. The price tag will also likely keep it out of consumers, at least initially, with MS Surface expected to cost anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000.

For a fuller picture, you should really watch the above video, a Popular Mechanics exclusive. We sound like gushing groupies, but you might share some of our feelings once you’ve seen for yourselves. Release date: Winter 2007.

VIA [ Everywhere ]

P.S. In case you’re wondering, the headline is a slightly modified Seinfeld reference.

Boeing VIP Edition Custom Aircraft

By Evan Ackerman

747-8

A few months ago we mentioned that, if you were in the mood, you could pick up a customized Airbus A380 or Boeing 787 Dreamliner for only a few hundred million dollars. Boeing has just released a few more concept interiors from it’s Dreamliner VIP series, as well as the new 747-8, which is basically all the cool new features of the Dreamliner grafted onto a new stretched version of the trusty old 747-400. There’s a crazy amount (over 5,000 square feet) of interior space, as is demonstrated by pictures like these:

747-8 VIP Interior

Yep, that’s inside an airplane. It’s a bit of a shock for those of us who are used to flying coach and are thankful for the occasional extra legroom afforded by an exit row. Four of these monsters have been ordered already, due for commercial delivery by 2010. Click through to Boeing’s website for more interior pictures.

[ Boeing Business Jets ] VIA [ Seattle Pi ]

Fire Extinguishing For Dummies: The First Alert Tundra

tundra first alert By David Ponce

This has been out for a while, but some people don’t know about it, and it looks like a darn good product. See, if you can use a can of Pam, you can put a fire out with The First Alert Tundra. Instead of your conventional fire extinguishers, which are relatively heavy, require you to pull a pin, and (oh Lord) squeeze a handle, the Tundra simplifies the process. Just press the tip, like you would any aerosol can, and out comes a special chemical that will put all kinds of fires out: wood, paper, cooking-oil and electrical. The device sprays up to four times longer than conventional fire extinguishers, giving you plenty of time to recover from being freaked out and spraying random crap… and letting you actually put the fire out.

But don’t take our word for it, come inside for a nifty promotional video and links.

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Sony’s 3mm Thin OLED Displays

sony oled screen

By David Ponce

We’re used to seeing OLED screens in small-ish electronics. But the technology is moving forward by leaps and bounds, and displays getting ever larger. The nice thing about OLED displays is that they don’t have to be quite as thick as their LCD or plasma counterparts. As a matter of fact, Sony’s been caught showing off these gorgeous screens at the Display Expo 2007. While they were announced as far back as CES, it’s nice to see real life pictures of them. The picture you see up there is of the 3mm thin display, which has a maximum resolution of 1024×600.

The other nice thing about OLED is that you can achieve some incredible specs, like a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio. Yeah, we counted those zeroes, and we do mean a million-to-one. Want to see a picture of a 1,000,000:1 full-HD (1080p, or 1,920×1,080 ), 9mm thin OLED display? A few more details? Keep reading.

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