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Category Archives: Innovation

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 ]

Project Epoc Controller Lets Your Mind Do The Button Mashing

project epoc

By David Ponce

Yeah, so we’re going to report on this news with a grain of skepticism. Project Epoc from company Emotiv is a cool looking controller that straps to your head, much like a helmet, and claims to give you the ability to control games with the power of your mind.

Project Epoc is a headset that uses a set of sensors to tune into electric signals naturally produced by the brain to detect player thoughts, feelings and expression. It connects wirelessly with all game platforms from consoles to PCs. Project Epoc now makes it possible for games to be controlled and influenced by the player’s mind.

Now, before you go dreaming of playing Wii Sports while laying flat on your sofa (just the way you’ve always wanted to play it), chew on this. We remember a few years ago, much was made of some simple game where two people tried to move a ball towards each other by trying to be “more relaxed” than the other. This alone was considered an achievement in brain/real world interaction. It was called Brainball (great name), by the way. Well, what are the chances that in the intervening years, the technology has improved so much that this helmet is now able to pick up on complex and rapid series of button presses and combinations such that are required in today’s modern games? Wouldn’t it make more sense to believe that the helmet does allow you to control games… but only certain games that have been specifically written to take advantage of its inevitably limited application?

Yeah, it’s cool, but not quite as amazing as you’d initially want to believe. Then again, we could be totally wrong on this one. Or, maybe game developers will start writing games that can take advantage of this technology. Whatever the case, the Project Epoc is not going to be commercialized just yet, though it will be on display at the upcoming Game Developers Conference.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ UberGizmo ]

iPod Dock Extender Lets You Dock With Your Skin On

ipod dock extenderBy David Ponce

If you’ve decided to protect your iPod with a skin that’s any thicker than a thin sheet of paper, you’ve undoubtedly found out that docking your music player can become quite a pain. If it’s wearing leather, or something equally thick, it’s pretty much impossible without peeling the skin off first. So, leave it to the Sendstation guys to come up with an elegant solution. The Dock Extender simply connects to your iPod on one end, and to any dock on the other via an included standard size Dock Insert. There’s even a removable metal support for added stability. And, no need to remove your akin anymore.

It’s a simple gadget, but one that promises to make your life marginally more comfortable; at least, your music-listenin’, iPod-totin’ pampered life, that is. There’s no word on price or availability, though we don’t expect this to be too far away.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ Coolest Gadgets ]

Breathing New Life Into The Watch With The JITWatch

jitwatch

By David Ponce

It’s pretty clear that watches are dying a slow death. The only reason they are worn is as arm decoration. But if German designer Martin Frey has his way, the JITWatch might change all that. It’s being built around the concept of a “thinking watch”. It would connect to your Personal Area Network (comprised, mainly, of the watch and your cellphone, though it could include your PDA as well), and keep track of all the little things you have so much trouble remembering: When is my next appointment? Where does the appointment take place and how long does it take to get there from here? Thus, when should I leave? How much time is left till then? Should I leave now? Am I already too late?

Once synced up with your cell, it could access your calendar and become aware of your schedule.

The watch knows the wearer’s actual position coordinates via GPS, GSM-tracking or other techniques. In addition to that the cell phone enables a data connection with the www. Appointments with site coordinates can thus be synchronized. They were entered in advance e.g. into the cell phone or into the computer with a calendar tool like iCal. Furthermore the watch can access web-based navigation-, timetable- and traffic information services.

Unfortunately, no availability or pricing information is available, though the picture hints at a wonky looking prototype, what with wires and batteries sticking out willy-nilly. So, maybe there’s so commercial effort behind the concept.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ popgadget ]

Fraunhofer To Release World’s Smallest HDTV Camera

microhdtv

By David Ponce

Fraunhofer are the people behind the MP3 compression format. Little did we know they also made gear, but they do. And they’ve recently announced the development of the world’s smallest HDTV camera, named MicroHDTV. The device is only 3 inches long and 1.5 inches wide, yet is still capable of recording video at full HDTV resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, and 60 frames per second. It achieves this in part by ditching bulky heatsinks:

The camera?s electronics have a very low power loss, which means that little heat is generated and the housing can thus be kept very small. By using highly integrated parts, we were able to fit all of the components such as the image sensor, the analog-to-digital converter, the color processor and several interfaces into the tiny space available inside the camera

Being this small, it can easily be strapped to a skier’s helmet, or embedded in a race car.

There’s no word on price or specific availability, though the MicroHDTV will be on display at CeBIT, in Hanover, from March 15 to 21.

[ Full Article ] VIA [ Electronista ]