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Category Archives: Innovation

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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Plasma TVs Soon To Be Made Of Cement

electro_conductive_cement.jpg By David Ponce

Well, not quite. But a team of researchers led by professor Hideo Hono of the Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed a cement mixture that transmits electricity. Its conductivity is comparable to that of Manganese, and the researchers achieved this feat by altering the crystal structure at the nano level:

Ordinary alumina cement made from a lime-alumina compound (C12A7) has a crystal structure consisting of asymmetric cages, making it a poor conductor of electricity. But by sealing the alumina cement compound along with titanium inside a glass tube and heating it to 1,100 degrees Celsius, the researchers were able to create a homogenized, symmetrical cage structure that conducts electricity like metal.

But why should we gadget geeks care? Well, among the bunch of perfectly valid applications (heated sidewalk, anyone?), there’s the fact that when stretched into a thin membrane, the new cement is nearly transparent, making it an ideal substitute material for rare metals such as indium, which is used in plasma and liquid-crystal displays.

This material is still in the research stage of course, so it may be quite some time (if ever) before it finds its way into our home electronics.

[ Press Release (in Japanese) ] VIA [ Pink Tentacle ]

Squishy Pudding Cups Don’t Gag You With A Spoon

By Evan Ackerman

Crushpak

The next time you find yourself spoonless and craving a single serving pudding cup (and in New Zealand), you may be able to snag some of these CrushPaks. Rather than relying on a utensil, just shove your face in and squeeze, trying not to choke on the pudding as you inhale. According to the designers: “It can be manufactured on existing form fill seal or pre-forming equipment and requires no special tooling or materials. In fact CrushPak’s unique design means less plastic can be used than a conventional container, up to 36% less.” I’ll confess to being slightly confused as to how more surface area translates into less plastic overall, but in any case it means more puddin’ for the slurpin’.

Look for an exclusive review of this exciting new product next week, as I travel to New Zealand in search of novel forms of pudding packaging (among other things).

[ Inveratek CrushPak ] VIA [ Core77 ]

Steam Cooling Sounds Lame, Isn’t

By Evan Ackerman

Celsia Nanospreader

My beast of a laptop sure does pump out a lot of heat. Despite lapping the heatsink, applying Arctic Silver, and regularly vacuuming out my fans, I can loop 3DMark and heat my entire apartment over the winter. I’d love a liquid cooling setup, but there’s no way you can stuff something like that into a laptop… Wait for it… Until now. Celsia has created a new form of heatspreader that uses a flat hollow plate with a small amount of water inside. The water flashes into steam when it heats up, rapidly transferring heat through the plate. According to Celsia, “steam conducts heat better than almost any substance out there.” The steam moves to a colder part of the system, where it condenses and is channeled back to the source. The plate is amazingly thin (with a width of less than 1mm), has no moving parts, and can be shaped in any manner. Although it costs a bit more to implement than standard cooling setups, fewer physical components are needed, so ultimately Celsia claims cost neutrality with vastly increased effectiveness. Here’s hoping, since using my laptop on top of my lap would probably render me sterile in seconds.

[ Celsia Nanospreader ] VIA [ CNet ]

Virgin Galactic + NASA = Spaceplane

By Evan Ackerman

Virgin Galactic Spaceplane

Virgin Galactic, the company that successfully launched SpaceShipOne (with Scaled Composites) and is working on SpaceShipTwo (for which you can now book a 2009 flight at $200,000 a person, round trip of course), has entered into a joint venture of sorts with NASA to develop hypersonic commercial transport technology. Hypersonic generally refers to speeds of Mach 5+, or 3,500 – 4,000ish mph depending on altitude. That’s potentially London to New York in under an hour.

Virgin readily admits that hypersonic research isn’t something they’re cut out for. NASA, however, has already successfully tested their hypersonic scramjet powered X-43A up to Mach 10, and are working on expanding the program with hypersonic vehicles like the X-43B (concept shown above) and the X-51A. So in a nutshell (from the COO of Virgin Galactic): “We are interested in possibly paying for it. NASA is interested in researching it.”

As a past (and let’s hope, future) beneficiary of NASA grant money, I can say from experience that while NASA has the will, when it comes to the way, they’re notoriously stingy with research funding. Here’s hoping for my own corporate sponsor… Any British billionaires out there interested in Martian impact cratering?

VIA [ National Geographic News ]

Enviro-Friendly Enano PC Claims To Be World’s Smallest

enano computer

By David Ponce

The word Enano, as I learned it, actually means dwarf. But, we imagine the company probably had a different connotation in mind, perhaps more like “small or tiny”. Whatever the case, Enano Computers are indeed damn small, and energy efficient to boot. Matter of fact, that’s their whole point: some models consume as little as 20-25W, around as much as a laptop, and much less than an average desktop. They’re also tiny, at 6 X 6 X 2 inches. The company is proud to have achieved such low power consumption, and are positioning their products to attract the environmentally conscious crowd.

Not only are the Enano PC’s small, they pack half decent features too, running mostly Intel Core2 Duo processors, between 512MB and 1 Gig of RAM and between 40GB and 120GB of hard drive space. Sure, we’re not talking high-end gaming rigs here, but it’s not everyone that’s after that. If you’re looking for decently priced ($750 to $1,300), green and tiny PC’s, Enano sure sounds like it should be worth a look.

[ Enano Computers ] VIA [ UberGizmo ]