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Photographer Ignas Kutavicius and his mega hipster pinhole selfie contraption (via Ignas Kutavicius)


A project by photographer Ignas Kutavicius takes the selfie mania to a new level. Actually, it takes selfies not just to a new level, but creates a new form of media, and takes you into a different time period.

 

Kutavicius has created a pinhole camera for the single purpose of taking selfies that make you look like you're from the 1800's. Truth be told, Kutavicius simply took two things that already existed and put them together ( probably in a drunken stupor), to create something that people are actually raving about in the photography world. I can't recognize whether the interest in Kutavicius's camera is due to people having nothing better to do, or selfie mania, but people actually want to take their selfie with Kutavicius's camera. So, let's give a round of applause to Kutavicius for finding his niche in the market.

 

With this device you no longer have to spend the time and effort  it previously required to take a selfie with your iPhone and create a pinhole effect. In maker terms, this camera is actually a fun project and pretty easy to duplicate. The pinhole camera is created from an empty energy drink can, but you can replace this with an empty of your favorite brew. The small pinhole acts like the lens, and black & white photo paper captures the inverted image obtained from the makeshift lens.

 

The small, pinhole camera is fixed onto a rig that attaches to the users head so they can take a selfie with no hands. Because the user’s face is closest to the camera, and it is attached to their head, the camera can take a crisp image regardless of slight movements. However, the background will always shift when the users turn their head, so the background comes out blurred. The finished product is a pinhole effect coupled with a fisheye effect that focuses on the user’s face, while giving a surreal image of their surroundings. Basically, the camera takes one hell of a selfie for the hipster nation that must have everything kitsch.

 

Kutavicius, who's from Sweden, said he made the pinhole camera to combine something new (selfies) with something old (the pinhole camera). He was also surprised when people were interested in his camera and wanted him to take pictures of them. It seems that even Kutavicius underestimated the fickle nature of humans.

 

Kutavicius has a Pinhole Selfie series that you can view here: http://www.ignasphoto.com/photography/pinhole-selfie/index.html.

 

Kutavicius notes that he wanted to give an impression of what selfies would have looked like back in the 1800's, but you don't actually have to wonder because The Public Domain Review has found one for us! Feast your eyes on this: http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/robert-cornelius-self-portrait-the-first-ever-selfie-1839/.

 

Robert Cornelius was the first man to be featured in a documented selfie c.1839. And yes, he was working that camera (figuratively and metaphorically). The moral of this story: play with pinhole cameras because they're fun and easy to use. Maybe a pinhole camera drone is next?

 

C

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A Punching bag keyboard for you work and exercise needs (via Bless)


Let's face it. Sitting in front of a computer all day is horrible and it's made continually worse by having to come up with brilliant ideas which are expected to float effortlessly across the page. Unfortunately,  sometimes when you've been sitting on your butt all day ideas don't come. Sometimes you need to exercise and stop drinking so much coffee. But is it possible to do both at the same time?

 

Practically speaking, probably not. But theoretically, yes you can and a German design firm has created a quirky project to enable writers to take their frustration out on their keyboard. Or just pump out some words with gusto. It's a keyboard designed as a set of interconnected punching bags with a bag for every letter in the alphabet. You can also kick the delete and space button and body slam into the enter button if you'd like. I'm personally the kind of person that likes a good clacky keyboard so I can type so loudly that I can hear and feel the visceral damage my fingers are doing to the keys. Hence, I'd be pretty excited to beat the crap out of my enter key, metaphorically speaking. I also wouldn't mind developing killer abs in the process of working.

 

Bless, a group of wacky Germans decided to showcase their design in the Istanbul Tasarim Bienali 2014. If you want to see a strange video of how participants interacted with their punching bag keyboard, then watch their video here: http://vimeo.com/10630597. If you like random slow motion shots, set to euro techno music for no reason whatsoever, then you'll love it. They call it the N°41 Workout Computer.

 

As you can see by the layout of the design, it's not exactly conducive to actually using in practice as a Workout Computer and workstation. However, it is a really fun concept and the Bless team notes that they created the design for fun and to make a statement about the way people are living their lives these days: in front of a computer screen. With obesity rates and diabetes soaring in America and worldwide, it isn't hard to see the root cause is a lifestyle that requires sitting down all day and eating crap.

 

In fact, when it comes down to it, it is t terrifying to realize that our culture not only forces workers to sit in front of a computer all day, but most leisure time is spent sitting in front of a screen as well: TV, iPad, Kindle, iPhone. Somehow, someway, a healthier way of living in tandem with computers must arise and perhaps creating a computer workout station isn't a bad idea.

 

Currently, standing desks are all the rage, with some companies replacing their old desks with these new standing workstations that allow workers to get more exercise and prevent back injury and fatigue.  I've also seen new computer workstation treadmills out! It seems a bit silly, but it isn't a bad idea to walk 6 miles while cranking out your typical workload. You'll not only be productive, but you'll be super healthy as well.


 

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A demo of the new Prynt case for instant smartphone picture printing (via Prynt SAS)


Coming to the market is a smartphone case that instantly prints photos, directly from your phone. It's a modern-day Polaroid camera, but better and hopefully cheaper.

 

A French start-up called Prynt SAS, recently demo’ed their working prototype of the Prynt case to TechCrunch and is expecting to launch a Kickstarter campaign in early January. The cost for the Prynt case on Kickstarter will be $99, so if you're interested, stay tuned to get the early bird specials. You can stay updated on the campaign from their website: http://www.pryntcases.com/.

 

Currently, the photo printing smart case only accommodates 4” screens, like an iPhone 5. So, for those of you with phones the size of tablets, the Prynt case will not fit your phone. However, you still may be able to print your photos from the device.

 

The current prototype connects to the phone via Bluetooth, but the future Prynt device is supposed to connect to the phone via a lightning connection into the phone for instant printing.

 

As it stands, the printing process takes up to 50 seconds, but Prynt intends to reduce this time to 30 seconds in the next generation they're launching on Kickstarter. The Prynt case prints by heating up ink-filled paper. The current prototype holds about 10 pieces of ink-filled paper, but the next generation is expected to hold between 10-30 pieces of paper at any time. You can refill the paper whenever you like and order it directly from Prynt for delivery to your home.

 

Prynt is expecting to charge cents per sheet for their photo paper. Best part about it!

 

In addition to just printing, the Prynt case also shows a video when held up to the camera of your phone, if you have their special app. This means Harry Potter fans can go wild with this augmented reality addition. When your take a photo with the Prynt app, it also captures a video. In future, when you print out the photo and hold it up in your camera's view, it will show a short video clip recorded during the snapshot of that photo. This feature is also meant to work even if you give the photo to a friend (who would probably have to have the same app, I would think).

 

This idea is pretty interesting and adds a lot of extra value to make the Prynt app something more unique than other photo printers on the market. It allows you to really capture a moment in time with more than just one shot.

 

In future, Prynt is going to try and turn your picture of one thing into a video of something else. For instance, you can send a wedding invitation and invite your guests to hold it up to their smartphone camera to see a personalized video invite from the bride and groom. I can see that idea really catching on.

 

This gadget seems to be catching people's attention and imagination since it demo’ed at HAXLR8R and coming soon to Kickstarter!

 

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Printed LEDs from bionic nanomaterials by McAlpine Research Group (via McAlpine Research Group)

 

The McAlpine Research Group from Princeton University are the first to successfully 3D print fully functional quantum dot LEDs. Not only did the group successfully print LEDs, but all of the electrical components, housings, and more have been 3D printed as well, making this the first functioning electrical device to be 3D printed from scratch.

 

The creation of LEDs may not be as exciting as a Star Trek device that 3D prints any type of food you can think of (and yes – I do wish this existed), but it opens up new possibilities. Michael McAlpine and his team of researchers have been leading some cutting-edge scientific discoveries in the realm of nanotechnology, biomedicine, and energy sciences. Previously, the team was working on a method of generating power from bodily functions like breathing and walking.

In order to successfully harness energy from bodily functions, they created rubber films that were able to generate and capture energy from flexing as the body moves naturally. In another first, McAlpine's nanoribbons are the first to combine silicone and lead ziconate titanate (PZT) into a material 100 times thinner than a single millimeter.

 

Jumping off from this breakthrough, McAlpine and his team decided to take the world of 3D printing further and innovate ways of printing an entire electrical device in one go. Their final product is a box containing working quantum dot LEDs, which are 3D printed using 5 different materials.

 

The 3D printer was developed in six months and cost $20,000 but the ability of the machine is impressive. In particular the materials used are a variable mixture of inorganic and organic nanoparticles, metals, and polymers. Considering most 3D printers can only use plastic, powder, and possibly metal, this is very impressive. Another interesting aspect of this 3D printer is that it is able to 3D print the LEDs on a curvilinear surface. This may lend itself to the production of things like 3D printed contact lenses and biomedical implants, according to McAlpine.

 

The LEDs are made of five layers, of which the bottom layer is a ring of silver nanoparticles to conduct  electricity which is being supplied by two polymer layers that move the electrical current to the third layer of the LED which is made of cadmium selenide nanoparticles within a zinc sulfide shell and a cathode ray layer made of eutectic gallium indium.

 

Put all this together and you basically have an LED that creates orange or green light by forcing electrons to crash into the quantum dots. The overall electrical design is also interesting and efficient, pointing towards new future developments in the area of 3D printing electronic devices.

 

The McAlpine Research team is expecting that continued efforts in 3D printing electronic devices using nanoparticles will result in biomedical implants being developed. Perhaps DARPA will use this idea to develop a microchip that is small enough to inject into soldiers' brains.

 

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Folding electric bike – or art project? (via Impossible Technology)

 

If you live in the city, you probably already know that commuting sucks and companies have been working towards finding better, electric ways at getting us to our destination. As of late, there are tons of companies creating better electric skateboards to get you to the office, but what about the old fashioned bicycle?

 

There haven't been many innovations on the portable, traveler’s bike – especially not an electric one. Previously, the best portable bike is from 2006 (the A-Bike) and is still so bulky that it's the size of a luggage when you fold it up. Of course, it still serves its purpose, but it can still be a right pain in many different ways.


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The "A-Bike" from 2006


Impossible Technology decided to create something that seems... well, impossible. Meet the new portable, electric bike that is so small, it can fit in your backpack – and you'll still have room for more stuff!

 

When the impossible bike is folded up, it looks about the shape and size of a tennis racket and fits inside of a hard plastic carrying case. This case also doubles as a seat for the bike, adding more mystery and quirkiness to the overall design.

 

As you can see by the picture above, when you unfold the bike for use it looks more like an artistic impression of a bike than an actual functioning bike. But, alas, if you watch the video below, you'll find the creator zooming around China on his intriguing invention. This product is actually a joint innovation between some Chinese and Canadian engineers and software designers.


 

The overall design is based on circles, and the miniature wheels drop down and lock into place, allowing you to pull out the handle and seat. The frame is supposed to be made of carbon fiber, but because the design is so compact, it can only hold up to 180 lbs.

 

The impossible bike is propelled by a brushless electric motor that the inventor is still developing for the next generation prototype. Hence, once you put the bike together and find a way to perch and find balance on its sparse frame, you can just zoom past pedestrians.

 

Due to the lack of suspension, you obviously won't be doing any road biking on this thing, but it should work just find for paved roads – well paved roads, I should emphasize.

 

This bike can actually go 15.6 miles at a moderate speed and comes equipped with 10 2,900mAh batteries. You can ride the impossible bike a full speed (12.4 mph) for up to 45 minutes.

 

Suffice to say, you should be prepared for a nice and breezy cruising speed and not whatever those crazy bike messengers pull. The project has been live on Kickstarter for a short time now and has already pledged over $212k Canadian dollars of its pledged goal of $55,000.

 

All of the early specials are gone, but you can still nab one of these at $530 Canadian, before they hit the market.

 

C

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Airgonay club’s drone racetrack in the French Alps is a tough go for any pilot

 

Drones are being deployed for more than just spying and taking out terrorists. Civilian enthusiasts, law enforcement and even scientific researchers are getting in on the craze at an exponential rate. Besides being used for bogus UFO sightings, drones are being harnessed for racing, HD photography and as two-in-one rescue tools (among a host of other uses). Below is a roundup of the more interesting and unusual jobs drones are being employed for.


What’s better than piloting your own UAV? How about racing it at high speeds through a dense forest, which looks suspiciously like the forest moon of Endor seen in Star Wars episode VI. Professional drone pilots from the Airgonay club designed their own challenging three-lap racetrack in the densely forested French Alps. The track is full of twists and turns that can be a challenge for any seasoned pilot. The interesting part is most of the racers wear AR/VR headsets to pilot their drones with a first person view, allowing them to actually ‘see’ where they are going. Read more here (Beware, it’s in French)- http://www.airgonay.com/

 

 

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Watcha gonna do when they come for you? Police use small drone to help find suspects.

 

With the theme song from the TV show ‘Cops’ playing in your head, Grand Forks Police in North Dakota recently used a drone to help catch four DUI suspects that took refuge in a corn field. The four underage suspects were being pulled over on suspicion of DUI when the four jumped from the vehicle and ran into a nearby cornfield. Instead of rolling in on foot, officers deployed the force’s Qube (from AeroVironment) drone to ‘sniff them out’ from the air. One suspect was found within three minutes of the first flight while a second was found on a subsequent flight roughly 25-minutes later. The other two were found at a later time and were the unlucky first Americans to be apprehended by a drone in the US. Read more here- http://www.valleynewslive.com/story/26657338/grand-forks-authorities-use-drone-to-help-find-criminals

 

 

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AeriCam’s Anura is a pocket-sized drone that allows users to feel like James Bond.

 

Size isn’t everything, it’s the capability that matters, which is certainly true for AeriCam’s Anura drone. The drone itself is about the size of Apple’s iPhone 6 and features foldable arms that fold out when getting ready to fly. Anura is outfitted with built-in micro FPV (First Person Video) camera that streams video in real time and is controlled over Wi-Fi using any Android or iOS-based smartphone. AeriCam’s Anura is currently being funded on Kickstarter and has already surpassed their target goal of $100,000. Those interested in getting their hands on one can pledge $195 or more, which should be delivered in April of next year. More information can be found here- https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1364595768/anura-the-beginning-of-the-drone-era-for-the-masse

 

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DJI’s Phantom 2 was used to check out a volcano eruption and was so close the camera melted.

 

Some drones are tougher than others and DJI’s Phantom 2 certainly fits in that category as it was recently used to film an eruption montage at Iceland’s Bardabunga volcano chain. The drone was outfitted with a GoPro Hero 3+ camera, which captured the incredible footage. In fact, the drone was so close to the eruptions that it eventually melted after a short period of time. To keep in contact with the drone at a significant distance, pilot Eric Cheng used DIJ’s 2.4GHz Lightbridge Wi-Fi platform that has a range of about 1 mile. If communication was lost due to the intense heat, the Phantom 2 was programmed to return to base autonomously. For more information and to see the spectacular video head here- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cICS9MtRRw

 

 

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Mod Lab’s H.E.R.A.L.D. is a rescue drone with its own pair of land-based snake robots.

 

University of Pennsylvania’s Mod Lab designed one of the more unusual drones that’s tailored for search and rescue operations. Known as H.E.R.A.L.D. (Hybrid Exploration Robot for Air and Land Deployment), the drone is comprised of a quadrotor with a pair of detachable robotic snakes that can traverse rough terrain. The snakes are attached to the drone magnetically and can be controlled independently using an Xbox controller, giving H.E.R.A.L.D. the ability to search in hard to reach places. For more information on Mod Lab’s rescue drone head here: http://modlabupenn.org/hybrid-exploration-robot-for-air-and-land-deployment-h-e-r-a-l-d/

 

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Nixie’s wristband drone- for the vain outdoor enthusiast who needs that special selfie.

 

Some outdoor enthusiasts, whether it is mountain climbing, hang gliding or speed walking often times look to grab that unique ‘selfie’ while in action. In those instances Nixie’s wristband drone (also known as Nixie) could come in handy. The prototype (still in development) features four articulated arms that close on the wearer’s wrist and expand when ready for flight. When the wearer is ready for that all-important shot, they simply make a hand gesture and it launches, orients itself in flight and snaps the photo. When finished it simply hovers near the user waiting for them to grab it and slap it back on their wrists. For more information on Nixie’s Nixie head here: https://flynixie.com/

 

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Argentina’s MESI platform uses drones to hunt down tax evaders.

 

Nobody takes tax evaders more seriously than the United States, except for maybe Argentina who recently dispatched several drones to sniff out millionaires who owe the government some serious cash. Argentina’s collection agency ARBA suspected some wealthy individuals were lying about their properties, which were listed as vacant lots instead of mansions and set out to verify those claims using drones. Instead of finding dilapidated parking lots or patches of dirt and bushes, they found huge mansions complete with swimming pools (can’t have a mansion without one). The drones were responsible for finding 200 undeclared mansions along with an additional 100 swimming pools that were not noted on the residences tax declarations. Overall, Argentinian authorities are looking to rake in more than $2-million in back taxes thanks to their ‘eyes in the sky’. More information can be found here: http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=es&u=http://www.soy502.com/articulo/mesi-drone-contra-evasores-fiscales&prev=search


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CanBerra’s UAV took first place in Australia’s 2014 UAV Challenge Outback Rescue.

 

Drones used for search and rescue are one thing, search and rescue drones that deliver bottled water are on a completely different level. Back in September of this year, Australia held their annual UAV Challenge Outback Rescue, which pits teams against one another in an effort to find injured or stranded persons in remote areas and deliver them bottled water. The contest was started back in 2007 and what makes it interesting is that no team has ever been able to accomplish the challenge until now. This year’s winner went to team CanBerra who used a VQ Porter model airplane to locate Joe and successfully airdropped their water bottle payload 2.6 meters from the target. For more information head here:  https://www.facebook.com/UAVChallenge

 

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DHL’s is set to use their Parcelcopter to deliver packages to a German island in the North Sea.

 

DHL is set to join Amazon and Google in the drone package delivery market. Unlike like the other retailers who look to implement their services on a massive scale, DHL is looking to deliver parcels to Juist- a German island situated in the North Sea with a population of 1,700 people. Testing of their Parcelcopter have been ongoing since 2013 but has just recently gotten the go-ahead from the German government, which has established DHL’s own registered 7.5-mile flight path from Norddeich to Juist. The drone is allowed to climb as high as 164-feet at a travel rate of 40MPH, making it a first for company to be issued a block of airspace for civilian drones. More information can be found here: http://www.dhl.com/en/press/releases/releases_2014/group/dhl_parcelcopter_launches_initial_operations_for_research_purposes.html

 

More drone roundups on the way!


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Tesla Motors has opened the floodgates on their patents for free use as open-source material. (via Tesla)

 

Back in June of this year, the enigmatic CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, released the company’s patents on electric vehicle technology for anyone and everyone to use. Obviously, this was done in an effort to help other automobile manufacturers speed up the development of all electric vehicles, but could it have an adverse effect for the pioneering EV company? Looking at the mobile industry we can see a flurry of lawsuits stemming from the Smartphone Patent Wars with Apple, Samsung, Nokia (and a host of others) making accusations that rival mobile manufacturers had stolen something from their respective device designs (via The Guardian).


These lawsuits have a tendency to stagnate development in terms of new technology, which leaves the consumer with ‘revisions’ of current technology rather than innovation. In turn, giant corporations essentially corner the market with legal landmines that prohibit others from advancing in progress. Take Apple’s iPhone for example, the popular smartphone hasn’t changed much since the first model was introduced. All up to generation 4 have featured TN LCD displays with IPS taking their place from then on. The same with the iPhone’s CPUs, which feature ARM’s Cortex-A8 at various speeds and wasn’t changed until the company’s 5th revision. Could Apple’s innovation have come sooner without all the legal issues?

 

In his press release, Elon Musk noted the trend of patent wars and the effect they have on furthering technology development. When he founded Tesla Motors back in 2003, he was determined to patent every piece of EV technology that the company developed. Worries were prevalent that mainstream automobile manufacturers would copy their technology and use their massive manufacturing plants and marketing power to drown-out his business. Fortunately for Tesla (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it), big automobile manufacturers had no interest in EV technology and alternatively pursued hybrid designs that run on both fossil fuels and electric batteries.

 

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Tesla’s 4th generation Roadster is still popular with car enthusiasts and has a range of 245 miles on average.

 

Obviously, those manufacturers saw the potential of Tesla’s Roadster after the company soldout that model (twice) within 3-weeks of its introduction back in 2006/07 and have been developing their own take on the electric vehicle in an effort to compete in the growing market. (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesla_Motors#Tesla_Roadster). It is still important to note, however, that most of those major manufacturers (Ford, Chevy, Mitsubishi, Nissan, etc.) still churn out conventional vehicles with better fuel efficiency as their ‘bread and butter’, with just 1% or less of sales garnered on EV sales. (source: http://www.teslamotors.com/blog/all-our-patent-are-belong-you)

 

A major problem those companies face with EV sales lie with the limited range their respective vehicles can travel before needing a recharge. Most EVs on the market have low-energy density batteries that have a long recharge time, giving consumers ‘range anxiety’ and therefore they are leery of purchasing them. This is just one example Elon Musk hopes can be rectified with his open-source patent release. This would allow those manufacturers to incorporate his designs without any liability as long as they use the technology ‘in good faith’ (whatever that might mean). More than likely, this means that companies can use the patents to create something similar rather than designing the exact same vehicle and simply slapping their own logo on it.

 

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BMW’s i8 is actually a hybrid and does not currently feature any of Tesla’s EV technology. (via BMW)

 

Now that the patents are free for all, will major automobile manufacturers take advantage of Elon’s generous gesture? There were talks that Tesla Motors was collaborating with BMW to share technology, including battery and charging station developments to further the EV movement, however this may no longer be the case. BMW recently released a statement with the German business paper Wirtschafts Woche that the company has no plans with collaborating with Tesla Motors on anything, including car batteries, manufacturing plants and other EV components.

 

BMW did state however, that they were not opposed to selling Tesla lightweight carbon fiber material featured in their i3 and i8 line of automobiles for their future EV designs (via a report from the Business Insider, stating the fake partnership claims). Still, it would seem a smart move to release the patents especially when the company is looking to build a lithium-ion ‘Gigafactory’ to keep up with demand for their EVs. If other manufacturers took advantage of Tesla’s patents and focused on just battery development and manufacturing, it could turn into a lucrative endeavor for all those involved, including Tesla.

 

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Toyota’s Mirai features hydrogen fuel cells rather than li-ion batteries for power. (via Toyota)

 

So far, there have been no reports on manufacturers taking advantage of the patent explosion, however large companies tend to ‘wade’ into the waters of new technology rather than ‘jumping’ in., The risks seem minimal at this point, considering the technology is already proven. Or perhaps li-ion batteries are about to become obsolete in EVs with the recent announcement of Toyota’s Mirai- a hydrogen-based fuel cell vehicle, which debuts next year in Japan and California. Unlike li-ion batteries, hydrogen fuel cells can be replenished in minutes rather than hours and produce nothing but water for emissions, making for a ‘greener’ planet.

 

The question remains as to whether or not Elon Musk will benefit from unleashing the hordes of patents in their possession or if their battery technology will become obsolete if (or when) hydrogen fuel cell technology takes hold. One thing is for certain however, the controversial CEO has pioneered several successful tech companies (including PayPal and SpaceX) and with EVs becoming more popular as the years roll on, it would seem a safe bet that making his patents opensource will payoff for manufacturers in the long run.

 

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AM Turing Award, sponsored by Google (via AMTURING)


Google and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) announced the prize for the annual AM Turing Award will be reaching Nobel Prize levels with a one million dollar cash prize for the 2014 winner.

 

The lucky winner won’t know until spring 2015 at the ACM Awards Banquet, but Google will be single-handedly shelling out the prize money.

 

The AM Turing Award has been going on annually since 1966, and while it is the equivalent to the Nobel Prize within the computer science and technology realm – for the most part – the public doesn't care. Particularly, the next generation of computer innovators probably have never heard of the award, or the man it’s named after. That man is Alan Turing, by the way; he was a renowned code-breaker for the Allied Forces.

 

Thus far, the AM Turing Award has basically had two sponsors,: Google and Intel since 2007. Now, Google is the sole sponsor of the AM Turing Award, but their involvement has more than quadrupled. Previously the cash prize has been $250,000 which is paltry in comparison to the Nobel Prize.

 

Google is changing all that this year, and upping the ante on Computer Science and Technology. It seems this computing giant wants to use this million dollar cash prize as a way to inspire the next generation of innovators to get involved and create some groundbreaking stuff in years to come.

 

According to the ACM, the larger cash prize is meant to reflect the importance and impact computing science has had on every aspect of our daily lives. Indeed, in every field, we rely on computers and computing technology in order to function-- everything from our laptops and phones to medical equipment. This larger prize money also raises the profile of the AM Turing Award quite a bit. Perhaps the Nobel Prize finally has some competition.

 

Some of you might be thinking, 'how do I get in on this?' Well, it's about as easy to win the AM Turing as it is to win the Nobel Prize. Actually, the Nobel Prize might be easier to win now since they gave it to a man for simply becoming president, but then I guess they redeemed themselves with the Higgs Particle.

 

The AM Turing Award is given to “true pioneers” and “fundamental contributors to the science and technology moment,” according to what Alexander L. Wolf, president of the ACM, told the New York Times contributor, Steve Lohr.

 

Previous AM Turing Award winners include Douglas Engelbert (inventor of the computer mouse), Silvio Micali (innovator of cryptography), and Leslie Lamport (Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research).

 

All of the AM Turing Award winners have made groundbreaking contributions to the field of computing science and technology that made a difference. In future, who knows what awesome stuff scientists and researchers will come up with?. Personally, I'm still keeping my fingers crossed for a teleportation device, but I would also settle for a TARDIS (the time machine from the British TV series Dr. Who).. Time to get cracking, wave of the future!

 

C

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Baby turtles swimming to freedom, just an example... not their efforts. (via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)


The North Carolina tourist scene has had a problem for years now. Their beaches must be closed for at least six weeks due to little, baby Wolfpack Sea Turtles nesting on the sand. These Wolfpack Sea Turtles are endangered, so the US Fish and Wildlife service does what they can to keep people from accidentally smashing them underfoot.

 

However, this 6 week, no beach ban provides North Carolina with a big problem as the state tries to keep tourists and locals happy during the summer months. Nerds Without Borders decided to help solve the problem by developing some technology that will allow biologists to detect exactly when the Sea Turtle babies are ready to hatch. Overall, the time in which the eggs incubate to when they hatch and make a beeline for the water is supposedly 5 days. While nests and turtle babies will vary in terms of when they are exactly ready to hatch, the technology will give a more accurate picture of what's going on so the beaches can stay open for as long as possible without endangering the sea turtles.

 

The technology is also meant to increase ecotourism, according to Nerds Without Borders. If they can predict the hatching of sea turtles, then the local economy can set up events for tourists to witness this hatching process in action. Who wouldn't want to see a cute baby sea turtle run towards the water line?

 

This ecotourism also attempts to solve another local problem for North Carolina: inconsiderate sea turtle baby killers. Yep. After all, in a country where people seem to care more about themselves than others, there are people who would rather lay on the beach and kick and smash sea turtle babies: often they are kids, teens, and young adults.

 

Perhaps experiencing the magic of nature and the entrance of another mode of income from ecotourism  will inspire the local community to care for their resident endangered species.

 

Now, how exactly are these nerds going to predict when the eggs will hatch? Well, they've developed a pretty simple system, which starts with an egg shaped sensor module housed in ping-pong ball. The sensor tracks motion and temperature continually and sends it via wires to a capsule that houses the microcontoller and phone components.

 

The capsule contains the hardware that includes phone components (which are used in vending machines) which allows it to access GPS data, and send and receive wireless communications. The other portion of the hardware is a low-powered microcontroller that obtains sensor data and sends it to the researchers via text message. A SIM card is also part of the mix to allow it to access a network, but who pays that bill?

 

All of this tech is housed in a closed PVC pipe and connected onto the top of a secured PVC pipe that is anchored with a cement bucket and dug into the ground up to 20 feet away from the nest.

 

The hard part is interpreting all of this data coming in by correlating trends in the data with observations from biologists to determine what hatching looks like in data terms. Overall, they've been successfully capturing data, and it’s only a matter of time before they perfect the analytics.


Thanks, IEEE Spectrum!


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The first hoverboard created by Hendo and up on Kickstarter (via Hendo Hover)


Hold the phone and take me Back to the Future! Someone has created a real hoverboard! Recently, there was a big hub bub about a Back to the Future electric skateboard commemorating the awesomeness of Marty McFly. That is no comparison to an actual hoverboard!

 

Actually, I should preface this with the fact that you won’t be riding a hoverboard to work in the near future, but we could be driving hover-cars in 5 years, maybe. I can dream, at least.

 

Hendo is a start-up that was inspired to make a long-time dream a reality. The Kickstarter campaign is still up and running with 31 days to go and they have already received almost double their pledged goal. This hoverboard project currently has over $440,000 in funding! It's safe to say, people are going bananas for hoverboards.

 

So, how does this baby work? Well, it only hovers one inch off the ground, but that's a lot more than any other piece of furniture I own. The board floats using four, disk-shaped, hover engines which are located underneath the board. These 'engines' create a magnetic field that allows the board to hover and move above a surface with no friction. It is a technology similar to electromagnetic trains that hover above their tracks. However, this technology is scalable and doesn't need tracks, per say.

 

The setback is that the hoverboard needs to use a non-ferromagnetic conductor as a surface substrate. Hence, this board isn't going to be hovering over city sidewalks anytime soon, but Hendo has built their own skate park for their hoverboard. They plan to build parks like that around different cities to allow hoverboard owners to play to their hearts content. If you want a fully functioning hoverboard, I'm afraid you're out of luck for now. The boards are already sold to 11 lucky backers for $10,000 a pop.

 

But for you makers and tinkers out there, Hendo is offering really affordable tinker kits with the hover technology on Kickstarter which allows you to hover just about anything and make it fit your needs. Personally, I'm thinking of hovering my morning coffee to myself. While the basic kit allows you to take the technology apart and play with it, their Whitebox+ is a fully functional hovering box that you can remote control with your smartphone. While this isn't meant to be tinkered with, it could become a robot waiter of sorts. At the very least, it will resemble the footrest from Beauty and the Beast.

 

While Hendo isn't exactly offering ready-made hoverboards yet, their main reason for needing funding is to develop what they are calling Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA). This technology is what allows the hoverboard to work, and is less expensive and more sustainable than current magnetic propulsion technology. Hendo is hoping to develop this technology to the point that you could virtually make any and everything hover anywhere. I'm really hoping that they succeed in developing this technology way beyond a simple hoverboard so that I can hover above the giant Chicago pot holes that attempt to eat my car every winter.



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Students, start-ups, and MNCs coming together to crowdsource solutions (via Agorize)


Data is the big deal in business and large corporations like Google will do anything, and pay anything to get their hands on it. Currently, many companies will pay another company to conduct market research on their behalf so they can find out new product ideas and markets they currently haven't tapped. There is also the Amazon Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing Internet marketplace to use human intelligence to solve micro problems.

 

However, companies would obviously rather not pay more than they have to. What's more, they want the best knowledge their money can buy. Agorize is attempting to fill this gap by promising companies and Multinational Corporations (MNC) that they can crowdsource the best solutions to their business and innovation problems in a way no other company has done before.

 

Agorize recently received $2.6 million investment from Iris Captial, Capnamic Ventures, and Ader Finance. Hence, it seems there is already a lot of interest in this French start-up company, with big players like Google, Microsoft, and Bank of America wanting part of the action as they plan to work with Agorize to source new ideas and solutions.

 

These big companies will pay between 10,000 and 100,000 euros for Agorize to create and manage an Open Innovation challenge for them. These challenges can be taken on by a network of students, start-up companies, and engineers. The more involved the collaboration and management process, the more expensive the fee. Agorize currently has a large network of over 15,000 students in 2,000 schools worldwide willing to participate in Agorize Open Innovation challenges. They also have a large number of start-up companies who can work to source ideas and manage new crowdsource projects. Their network of engineers is also ready to work on teams to design new design ideas.

 

Overall, the idea seems to suit MNCs and Agorize quite well, but what about the participants in these Open Innovation challenges? Agorize is basically holding carrots in front of student horses on this one: flaunting job possibilities and gift rewards for successful participation in challenges. Some of the rewards for students who win challenges include gift cards, iPads, and travel rewards. They also get to meet and network with individuals from MNCs along with other students, start-ups, and engineers.

 

It seems like a lot of students are taking the bait on this. Probably because they don't have bills to pay and can therefore afford to waste some time and energy pursing the faint smell of a job opportunity. It seems the job climate is really heating up for these poor undergraduates. But if you are interested, you could probably find this fun and rewarding to do in your spare time.

 

Who knows? Maybe some of the international students will get together at some point and start their own start-up companies. It's a brave new world out there – or so I'm told.

 

For now, this seems to be the future of market survey platforms and possibly even job recruitment for big innovation MNCs like Google and Microsoft.

 

C

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A poor human being subjected to a ghostly robot presence... virtually. (Alain Herzog/EPFL)


For the first time, scientists have successfully been able to reproduce a ghostly presence in the lab with a robot. There is a long stem of research into the phenomena of people feeling a strange presence of an entity that was not physically there, such as an angel or a ghost. Particularly, people with neurological conditions like schizophrenia, migraines, and stroke often report feeling a paranormal presence. This phenomena is called FoP.

 

Professor Olaf Blanke of MD, PhD, from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland has been studying FoP phenomena for some time in patients with neurological conditions. However, he thought he would take some theoretical knowledge further by putting it to the test with a robot.

 

In Blanke's studies, he was able to link the experience of FoP with patients with neurological damage to three main regions of the brain. . His studies found that, of patients who reported feeling FoP regularly, they mostly had damage to their frontoparietal cortex, temporoparietal cortex, or their insular cortex. These parts of the brain process spatial positioning, self-awareness, and movement. Hence, while most of us can easily distinguish sensations as resulting from our own movement, people with damage to these lobes have trouble distinguishing the sensations caused by their own movements. As a result of a miscommunication of self-awareness, movement, and/or spatial positioning, patients would experience the presence of another human entity that they could not see.

 

While FoP in patients with neurological damage is documented, people without neurological damage have experienced FoP as well: particularly mountaineers. It seems that anyone in an extreme condition can experience FoP, and FoP is very well documented throughout historical, personal accounts from explorers and mountaineers.

 

So, Blanke's research found a missing puzzle piece as to how FoP could be induced in subjects without neurological conditions. Blanke set out to create a robot that could mess with participants' perception of self-awareness, spatial positioning, and movement.

 

The robot is a fairly straightforward master, slave robot. The subject is placed between the master and slave robot blindfolded. Then they must move the master robot (which is like a joystick). As they move the master robot stick, the slave robot mirrors their movements while touching their back. As time elapses, a greater time delay occurs between the master movement data, and the movement of the slave robot. So, the discrepancy between the positioning and movement of the slave robot in relation to the manner in which the subject is moving the master becomes greater. After about 3 minutes, the participants reported feeling FoP. Sometimes they felt it so strongly that they could not continue and reported up to four ghosts in the room, interacting with them.

 

Not only is this study super cool, and a great trick to play on friends during Halloween, but it can also do some people some good. This research sheds light onto schizophrenia, and perhaps points to new avenues of treatment. If you want more details, Blanke's paper is available here: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2814%2901212-3, featured in the Current Biology journal.


 

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One of my friends has bought a soft drink bottle cooler as a present for his partner.

The outside of the machine is agreeable, but the state of the electr(on)ics is bad. More than 20 wires have been cut off by previous owners and restorers. The only part that still works is the refrigerator.

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At this moment I'm assessing the damage done by previous repairs, and building a plan to make the cooler dispense bottles in some way.

 

My current assessment:

- the motor that activates the vending cycle is toast. So is the gear box of that motor.

- the coin validation mechanism is incomplete and doesn't work anymore.

- everywhere I look wires are cut and bodged together in a seemingly random way. Someone had a go at it, but I think that person was not restricted by any relevant knowledge

 

I'm planning to decipher the circuit (I purchased a service manual on-line), get the basic mechanism working again, and replace the coin detector by  an optical interrupter.


I'm on a deadline. The cooler is for the girlfriend's birthday. And I'm invited late to the party. My design decisions will be guided by time and 'having the parts available at home' more than efficient solutions.

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Like something out of a Scifi movie with evil corporations - Apple, emulating a policy Facebook has already implemented, has taken an important step in encouraging gender diversity in the work place (or saving a few bucks by pressuring women to sacrifice their reproductive years for the company, depending on who you ask) by extending their employee insurance to cover egg-freezing procedures. Egg freezing is pretty much what it sounds like: Doctors will remove your eggs (oocytes) transvaginally, dehydrate them, cryogenically freeze them, and keep them stored for you. The oocytes can either be frozen using a slow-cooling method or a flash-freezing process called vitrification. Vitrification, the newer of the techniques, results in higher survival rates and better development than slow-cooling. When or if a woman becomes ready to retrieve an egg, sperm can be injected into its cytoplasm with a technique known as ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). This is the same technique used in in vitro fertilization.

 

Studies have demonstrated that, while not as successful as implanting fresh eggs (one 2008 study showed that the success rates for embryo growth from frozen and fresh implanted oocytes were 79% and 93%, respectively), the implantation procedure for frozen eggs has led to rates of birth defects and chromosomal abnormalities comparable to those associated with natural births (according to two studies in 2007 and 2009). Since the “experimental” label was lifted from the procedure, doctors have reported a two-fold increase in women seeking out the procedure in New York and San Francisco.


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(via RBA-online)


Why would a woman want this procedure done? Well, women really do have a ticking biological clock in a way—a woman is born with all the oocytes she’ll ever have, and she will steadily lose them throughout her life. According to Extend Fertility, the leading company in oocyte freezing, the quality of eggs decreases along with the quantity. This is why women in their thirties and forties may have a harder time becoming and staying pregnant.

 

According to the CDC, women in the US are waiting longer these days to have kids. This may be due to the increased number of women seeking higher education and pursuing time-consuming careers. Because of this, many women would prefer to start having families after achieving stability in their careers—stability that usually comes from devoting years to educational and work-related goals. Because these are typically the years during which a woman is most fertile, a woman may feel conflicted about whether to invest herself in work or family.


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Insemination in a lab, does it matter how they are made? (via Donoreggbankusa)

 

Egg freezing presents a solution to women who’d like to have a family, but who want (or need) to wait and start one later on. While the procedure does not ensure a successful pregnancy, it does provide women some peace of mind that they’ll have a greater chance of having a baby down the line.

 

The only thing holding these women back from getting the procedure is the cost—according to NBC News, the treatments run for at least $10,000 per round, and storage of the eggs can cost $500 or more per year. But since high-profile companies like Facebook and Apple have now begun to cover that cost, it’s only a matter of time before other companies follow the leaders by offering their own egg-freezing coverage. The message this sends to female employees is ambiguous—Glenn Cohen, a blogger for Harvard Law School’s Bill of Heath website, writes, “Would potential female associates welcome this option knowing that they can work hard early on and still reproduce, if they so desire, later on? Or would they take this as a signal that the firm thinks that working there as an associate and pregnancy are incompatible?”

 

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Borg Cube throwing a tractor beam on the Enterprise.. not too far from becoming a reality... the beam that is. (via CBS)


Thanks to scientists at The Australian National University, we could all have tractor beam pens to move the TV remote closer. Tractor beams have been in the realm of science fiction for some time, whether it's the Star Trek Enterprise, or the Star Wars Death Star, all futuristic societies have figured out how to move objects using laser technology.

 

Naturally, super nerds everywhere (aka scientists) have been trying to invent a real tractor beam with intermittent success. Previous attempts at creating a tractor beam have used light propulsion to move microscopic particles, microscopic distances. Hence, they've been pretty far off the mark.

 

The scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have taken a novel approach by developing a hollow laser beam, and using the laser to heat the metal coating of the object to control and propel the direction of movement. Their design allowed them to move a 0.2 mm particle almost 20 cm. This is about 100 times further than previous technologies have been able to move even smaller particles using laser beams.

 

Maybe one day we can even beam Scotty up! Today, however, we'll have to settle for decent sized particles. The particles ANU scientists have been using are glass spheres that are coated with gold. The gold plating allows the laser to more easily polarize and heat up the outside of the sphere which causes it to move. The laser developed by ANU scientists has a laser free center, thus the term 'hollow beam'. The center of the beam is hollow in order to create 'hotspots; on the surface of the spheres which cause the particle to move as a result of reactions it has with the air.

 

The reactions of the air occur when air particles meet the super hot spots on the sphere's surface and bounce in the opposite direction. As the air particles collide and move in the opposite direction, it causes the sphere also to move in the opposite direction of the particle as a result of the collision. It's basic physics: equal and opposite reactions.

 

The team can also control the movement of the particle seamlessly using a unique method of polarization. The hollow laser beam creates unique polarizations on specific points on the sphere that control its movement, in any direction. The laser has been designed to do this by creating polarizations in particular shapes including doughnuts, stars, and rings. These shapes allow the particle to move forward, backward, and more. The laser can be controlled to move from these various polarizations states easily.

 

The scientists are confident that this beam can be put into practice in the near future by controlling things like pollution and expelling dangerous particles from the air. Perhaps we will see large tractor beams moving junk out of our air and into the exosphere in the near future. They also want to use their tractor beam to get samples of dangerous or hazardous particles that need special care.

 

Finally, the team says that their design can be scaled up easily to move even bigger particles, if one has the space for a giant laser beam in their backyard.

 

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