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Tag Archives: Technology

Blocks Smartwatch Lets You Customize The Hardware To Your Heart’s Content

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Modularity is all the rage these days. Just look at the excitement over Project Ara, the modular smartphone, for proof. And why shouldn’t it be? Modular gadgets mean that we can reconfigure them to our liking, adding more of the hardware elements that we want, and less of the ones we don’t care about. Blocks, the modular smart watch being discussed in this article, is a project by the same people who were initially behind Project Ara, before Google got involved. They’re now trying the same approach with a timepiece where each link in the wristband can be a different hardware component. Modules can be dedicated extra batteries, GPS chips, contactless payments, SIM cards, and even heart-rate monitors. Don’t care about heart-rate monitoring? Swap that link for an extra battery!

It’s a great idea, but the success will depend on execution. Early prototypes, as shown in these pictures, look chunky and unattractive. The team is planning a Kickstarter for Q2 2015, so hopefully by then they’ll have refined their hardware enough to make it visually attractive. Pricing starts at $150 for the watch face itself, plus $20-$40 for each module. If you want the whole thing decked out, you’d be looking at $330.

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VIA [ Gizmodo ]

SkyBell Doorbell: See Who’s At the Door Without Even Getting Up

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Sometimes, the doorbell rings at the worst moments– when you’re still in bed, in the shower, playing a video game, or watching a particularly interesting football match. It gets easier when you have Skybell, though. It’s a doorbell that functions as a virtual sentry of sorts by letting you see who’s at the door without even having to get up and open it.

Skybell hooks up to your WiFi connection so you can see who’s at the door by checking your phone. You’ll also be able to communicate with visitors through Skybell (and turn away salesmen) in the comforts of wherever you currently are when the bell rang. What’s more, you’ll get an alert on your mobile if it senses someone loitering by your door, even when they haven’t pressed the button.

It’s available online for $199.

[ Product Page ] VIA [ Gear Hungry ]

Self-Tightening Bionic Bra Being Developed

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It’s a dilemma most men are unaware of: that of what type of bra to wear? Something comfortable will usually not provide enough support at the gym or during vigorous activity. And sports bras will keep your boobs in place, but at the cost of comfort. A two-bra approach is the most common solution, but researchers at the University Of Wollongong in Autralia have spent the last 25 years trying to develop a bra that does well in both situations. It’s only recently, thanks to new materials and 3D printing, that they are starting to see good results. The ‘Bionic Bra’ they’re developing would feature smart materials that tighten when needed, providing extra support when physical activity is detected, and relax when calm returns.

The bra isn’t quite ready for commercial release, but a working prototype seems to have been developed and work is underway. How far away from prime time this is, and at what cost, is a mystery for now.

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[ University of Wollongong ] VIA [ DamnGeeky ]

Pizza Hut Is Working On A ‘Subconscious Menu’ That Knows What You Want, Even When You Don’t

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Pizza Hut is working with eye-tracking firm Tobii Technology (of Eye Asteroids fame) to develop a menu that scans your eye movements and is able to determine what toppings you’re most likely to want on your pizza, often before you’ve had a chance to formulate the conscious idea yourself. They arrange their 20 most common toppings in a grid on a tablet-style device and watch your eyes as you scan the images; within a 2.5 second timespan the device is able to pick out your favourites out of a potential 5,000 combinations. At the moment the system is claimed to have a 98% accuracy rate, but even so the order won’t go through without your final approval.

Although it’s not available at any of their restaurants at the moment, the company appears to be considering using the system one day and actually calling it ‘Subconscious Menu’.

“We wanted to try a few ideas on the traditional menu format,” Pizza Hut Head of Marketing Kathryn Austin told the Telegraph, “and we’re delighted to have developed the world’s first Subconscious Menu, a unique way to reinvent the dining experience.”

There’s no word on when this might appear on the market.

VIA [ DigitalTrends ]

With The Powerlace, Self-Lacing Shoes Are Finally Here

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We’ve all been getting a good laugh these last few years at the fact that many of Back To The Future II’s predictions don’t seem to be coming true. Flying cars? The ones we have are middling at best. However… it’s almost 2015, and would you know it, we’re already seeing a working hoverboard, and how self-lacing shoes. That’s right, a startup in St-Hubert, Canada has created the Powerlace shoes, which use an internal mechanism powered by the wearers weight to automatically lace the shoes at a predefined tension. Simply insert your foot, press down with your heel, and the laces will tighten.

Inserting your foot triggers the mechanism, which locks into place at a tension level set by a pull tab on the outside upper section. The tension in the laces can be adjusted separately, too, by moving the lace lock.

A thermo polyurethane sole serves as support for the mechanism as well as anchor for the lever that unlocks the mechanism, while the tongue opens right out once pressure is released from the laces.

The team has tested the system up to 200,000 lacing cycles, which if it stands up to real-world use would mean the mechanism could operate without a hitch for 68 years if used four times a day

That’s definitely longer than the actual show will last, so you can buy with confidence. It’s a Kickstarter, with a pledge of $175 netting you a pair.

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Nixie Wearable Drone Takes Your Pics, Is Worn On Your Wrist

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Imagine this scenario. You go outdoors to do some cool outdoorsy activity, all by yourself. Suddenly you realize you’re doing something awesome and you’d like to immortalize it, so you unclip your fancy wristband… which immediately turns into a fully functional quadcopter drone with a camera. It flies out, takes a few pics or video, then flies right back to you. And just like that, you took a third person selfie, from angles that would normally be impossible. If that sounds too science-fiction for you, be aware that it’s a real product in development. It’s called the Nixie Drone, and the project literally just got wings: it recently won $500,000 through a design competition held by Intel.

That’s right, Intel was holding a MakeItWearable Challenge, aiming to further invigorate the wearables market. Nixie recently got the top prize, giving it enough cash to take the rough prototype much closer to becoming a product you can buy. We’re not sure how far away they are from being able to ship it, but the technology presumably exists to make something like this. So keep an eye out on this space.

Early Prototype

Early Prototype

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Texting-while-driving Detection Device Being Developed

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There are many jurisdictions where you’re not allowed to text while driving. It makes sense: the practice kills. But of course, illegal doesn’t mean people don’t do it. Now a Virginia-based company, ComSonics, is developing a radar-gun like device that can detect the telltale radio frequencies emitted from a cellphone as it sends a text. Law enforcement officers will be able to point it at passing cars and know if the occupant has been sending a text. It won’t be able to say which occupant is guilty, however, so maybe it’ll only be used with single-ocupant vehicles. It’s also unlikely to be able to detect when you’re using data-based text applications, like iMessage or WhatsApp. But considering how dangerous distracted driving is, we’re kind of happy to see tech like this in development.

No, it’s not illegal everywhere to text while driving. But it is in the following states: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada. New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

VIA [ UberGizmo ]

Radio The Size Of An Ant Developed, Doesn’t Require External Energy

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Oh, the jokes to be had with this. Or more like, the cliché jokes to the tune of “what is this? A radio for ants?” Well, it is a fully functional radio that’s about the size of an ant, though we don’t expect the little insects from deriving any type of pleasure from it.

Stanford engineer Amin Arbabian has managed to create a wireless radio just a few millimeters across that is so energy efficient that it doesn’t need a battery. Instead, it harvests power from the incoming electromagnetic waves. The Stanford radio chip is designed to compute, execute, and relay signals. What sets this technology apart is that it all happens on a single chip that doesn’t rely on any exotic materials or theoretical principles.

The last time we covered a device that “harvests energy from the surrounding electromagnetic waves”, it was for the RCA Airnergy device, which purported to be able to charge its internal battery in this fashion. Back then the consensus was that this was impossible, or at least the energy gathered was so negligible that it would be impossible to charge anything with it. But this radio is different since it actually uses so little energy itself that a single AAA battery could power it for 100 years. Arbabian even managed to fabricate 100 of these tiny radios, just to see if they’d work, and they do. This technology could help facilitate the development of the “Internet Of Things”, where all your devices are interconnected and online, for added functionality.

It’s all a proof-of-concept for the moment, but the fact that it can be done, and more importantly, done at a low cost, might signal a bright future for the technology.

[ Stanford Page ] VIA [ Geek.com ]

The Chairless Chair Is Only There When You Want It

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If you spend a good portion of your day on your feet, you’ve probably thought of just how sweet it would be to be able to sit now and then. But chairs are stationary, and there you are, moving around. If only you could bring one with you everywhere you go… Well, the Chairless Chair is essentially that: a wearable chair. It’s a light lower-limb exoskeleton that hardens at the push of a button and allows you to sit down anywhere you want. Keith Gunura, the 29-year old CEO and co-founder of noonee, the Zurich-based startup behind the device, informs CNN that it’s made from aluminum and carbon fiber, and weighs around 4 lbs., which makes it nearly indistinguishable to the wearer. To use, the wearer simply moves into the desired position and presses a button, which locks it in place, immediately relieving pressure from the lower limbs. A single 6V battery can power it for up to 24 hours.

The target market is industrial workers who spend most of their day on their feet, assembling things. Less fatigue could translate in increased productivity and worker satisfaction. BMW and Audi are actually going to start trials later this year, and if the tech catches on, perhaps a consumer version might make its way to the market eventually. Don’t hold your breath on that, however.

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[ Product Page ] VIA [ CNN ]