Archive | Gadgets

It’s A Cricket. No, It’s A Robot!

It’s A Cricket. No, It’s A Robot!

At the University of Bath in the United Kingdom, there is a robot who can jump like a cricket. It was designed by a PhD student named Rhodri Armour, who is using it as a part of his thesis project.

The robot, who has been dubbed Jollbot, has two distinct forms of movement. It can both jump over obstacles and roll over smoother terrain. Why this is unique, well, the creator of the robot explained: “Others in the past have made robots that jump and robots that roll; but we’ve made the first robot that can do both.”

This grasshopper like movement is only one type of jumping that are found in nature. Each one has its own benefits and drawbacks but this form of jumping is a good choice for robots because of its storage capacity. “In nature there are two main types of jumping: hopping, like a kangaroo, which uses its fine control and direct muscle action to propel it along; and ‘pause and leap’, such as in a grasshopper, which stores muscle energy in spring-like elements and rapidly releases it to make the jump.”

Now that we know how it jumps, how does it roll?

The ‘Jollbot’ is shaped like a spherical cage which can roll in any direction, giving it the movement of wheels without the problem of overturning or getting stuck in potholes. This also means that the robot is also flexible and small, weighing less than a kilogram, meaning it’s not damaged when landing after jumping and is therefore less expensive than conventional robots.

How is the jump powered, without weighty batteries?

“Before jumping, the robot squashes its spherical shape. When it is ready, it releases the stored energy all at once to jump to heights of up to half a metre.”

But that is not to say that Armour has not given thought to alternate sources of power for the robot. “Future prototypes could include a stretchy skin covered in solar cells on the outside of the robot, so it could power itself, and robotic control sensors to enable it to sense its environment.”

The robot could in the future be used to map places like caves, or even to explore distant worlds.

Posted in Gadgets, WeirdComments (2)

A New Way To Get Your Therapy

A New Way To Get Your Therapy

If you feel like you need to just vent, but you cannot make it all the way across town for a session to see your therapist then there is a new option coming for you.

A palm pilot Sure, you could just use the phone, but why not use your Palm Pilot?

In a new study, a University of Missouri researcher used Palm Pilots as electronic diaries to record and analyze mood variability in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and found that the devices helped bridge an important communication gap between therapists and patients.

So what good is the digital diary? Well, let’s ask an expert.

“In the clinical setting, patients are not good at assessing their mood retrospectively,” said Tim Trull, professor of psychology in the MU College of Arts and Science. “Previously, we asked BPD patients to recall and describe when a mood change occurred. This description could vary greatly depending on the patient’s current state of mind and how comfortable the patient felt with the therapist.  Electronic diaries help solve this problem by requiring that the patient reflect on and rate the degree to which a specific mood is present at that moment. At the same time, the device does not require that the individual makes a decision about when a mood change has occurred.”

As a matter of fact you can learn a great deal about the mood and how it changes by using these tools with a therapist. Clinical studies have already been done.

In the study, patients carried electronic diaries for one month and were prompted randomly to rate their mood on a scale of 1 to 5 up to six times each day. One group of patients had BPD and the other group of patients had depressive disorders. Researchers found that patients with BPD did not have significantly different overall levels of positive or negative moods. However, the patients with BPD displayed significant variability in their positive and negative moods throughout the month, demonstrated more instability, and reported more extreme changes across successive occasions.

In fact soon, your Palm could become a little mini therapist.

We may not have known the extent of the mood variability in the BPD patients without the assistance of the Palm Pilots, and the potential use of the device in psychological therapy is very exciting,” Trull said. “Eventually, programmed Palm Pilots may act as proxy therapists and provide patients with advice on coping skills and other therapeutic interventions, as problems occur in patients’ natural environment.”

Posted in Gadgets, WeirdComments (1)

Five Things For A Pimped-Out Future Kitchen

Five Things For A Pimped-Out Future Kitchen

Pimp your kitchen (or your mom’s or wife’s kitchen) with the following five futuristic kitchen appliances:

1. Multi Function Refrigerator

Conceived by Whirlpool, the fridge is complete with style and functionality. But it’s more than just a cold storage machine and ice dispenser. It’s complete with cell phone charger, digital picture frame, interactive message board, satellite radio, CD/DVD player, and more.

2. Transparent Glass Toaster

Yes, now you can watch with fascination as your slice of bread slowly crispens and browns. Conceived by yankodesign.com, the futuristic toaster still hasn’t solved the problem of making the glass heat hot enough to be able to toast the bread quickly.

3. Floating Salt and Pepper Shakers

The salt shaking cases are suspended in mid-air, above the base plate, utilizing strong Neodymium magnetic repulsion. Add to your table landscape and make your dinner guests say ooh and ahh.

 4. Wall Mounted Kettle

This futuristic steam iron-looking kettle called Diamantine can be hung on the mounting rack on any wall, allowing to save space and just look pure cool. Although we aren’t quite sure if it’s electric powered or you still have to heat it on the stove, it still is an attractive, space-saving wall piece for the kitchen.

5. Microwave TV

Damn right. We’re going to kill two birds with one stone by incorporating an LCD TV into a microwave oven. This puts a whole new spin on the term “TV dinner.” The Holland Electro Wave TV is a 900 watt microwave with a built in card reader and DVD player that even supports DivX. Drool. Now.

Posted in Concept, GadgetsComments (2)

Your Cell Phone Lets You Know If You’re Losing Weight and Going Green

Your Cell Phone Lets You Know If You’re Losing Weight and Going Green

So your phone already… keeps you connected to your boss 24/7… lets your friends bother you in the middle of a date by texting… alarm when you were right in the middle of that great dream…

And soon it will have a whole new way to micromanage your life for you thanks to researchers at the University of Washington. Now, your cell phone will be able to point it out when you gain a few extra pounds.

Oh, and they will also let you know when you are not being green enough.

Well, maybe I am exaggerating a bit, they are just two applications for your cell phone that are designed to help you manage your life.

Researchers at the University of Washington and Intel have created two new cell phone applications, dubbed UbiFit and UbiGreen, to automatically track workouts and green transportation. The programs display motivational pictures on the phone’s background screen that change the more the user works out or uses eco-friendly means of transportation.

UbiFit and UbiGreen are part of a larger project at the UW to use mobile computing in everyday activities and long-term goals such as fitness, said project leader James Landay, UW computer science and engineering associate professor. “You can’t get fit in a short period of time in one place,” he said. “It happens long-term, in many different places and ways.”

How does it work, you want to know?

screenshot of the applicationThe device includes an accelerometer to sense the user’s movement. The programs could run on phones with built-in accelerometers, such as the iPhone and the new Android G1, with no need for external equipment, Landay said. UbiGreen also relies on changing cell phone tower signals to determine whether a person is taking a trip. The sensing device determines what the user is doing based on how it gets jiggled around, Landay said — the localized motion at your waist will be different if you’re walking, jogging, or sitting in a car. The sensing device sends signals three times per second via Bluetooth to the cell phone, where the application averages these rapid signals and translates them into, for example, a 20-minute jog or a drive to work.

How do you know when you have reached your goals? Well each program has a unique way to display your progress.

UbiFit displays an empty lawn at the beginning of the week, and flowers grow as the user works out during the week. Different kinds of workouts yield different colored flowers. Users set weekly workout goals and are rewarded with a butterfly when the goal is met.

UbiGreen displays a tree on the cell phone’s background that grows leaves, flowers, then fruit as the user makes green choices. Icons light up when a choice saves money, incorporates exercise, or allows the user to multi-task. A green bar and number also display how many pounds of carbon dioxide each trip saves compared to a car ride.

“The last 30 years of personal computing has been in support of people sitting at their desks,” Landay said, “but the next wave will be these little computers that are with us all the time and have an understanding of our context in the physical world.”

Posted in Gadgets, Software, WeirdComments (2)

Woman To Replace Eyeball With a Webcam

Woman To Replace Eyeball With a Webcam

Tanya VlachSan Francisco artist Tanya Vlach lost her eye in 2005 in a car accident and had to wear an acrylic prosthetic eye. Now she wants to do something that has attracted the attention of engineers — to build a mini video camera into her prosthetic eye.

“There have been all sorts of cyborgs in science fiction for a long time, and I’m sort of a sci-fi geek,” said 35 year old Vlach. “With the advancement of technology, I thought, ‘Why not?'”

She issued a challenge on her blog — for tech experts to construct an “eye cam” for her prosthesis that can dilate with light changes, and zoom, focus and turn on/off with a simple blink.

Dr. William Danz, Vlach’s doctor, states: “I’d always given thought to using cameras to restore sight to the blind. This is a little different, more like James Bond stuff.”

Tanya Vlach claims that she has “a lot of ideas floating around” including sync’ing the video feeds wirelessly to a smart phone or even record her entire life and shoot a reality TV show from her perspective.

“It is possible to build a wireless camera with the dimensions of the eyeball,” said Want, a senior principal engineer at Intel Corp. “You can find spy cams or nanny cams designed to fit into inconspicuous places in the home…. In a world where eye cams are common, they might serve as a kind of computerized backup to people’s memories.”

Posted in Concept, Gadgets, WeirdComments (0)

E-ink May Be Spreading To a Newspaper Near You

E-ink May Be Spreading To a Newspaper Near You

The Kindle Reader, a current model Some of you may already be familiar with the concept of Eink, a new way to make digital readers for all kinds of publications, and a way to make all of the publications more cost effective endeavor for the consumers.
You may have already seen Eink and not even known it. In September of this year in celebration of its 75th Anniversary, Esquire Magazine and the new Ford Flex made the first-ever digital magazine cover released to the public.

New prototypes have been released that will show how the Eink technology can be brought to the markteplace at a reasonable cost thanks to the ability for effective advertising on the site. The prototypes shows a video of an interactive ad on the front page of the New York Times, similar to what you may see on many websites currently.

These new generation of readers can help to reduce the costs of readers and of subscriptions to Eink publications by adding these ads to the page. Which means that Einks may not just show up on the front pages of magazines, with plenty of glossy space inside to pay for the technology but in a wider range of applications as the cost model shifts.

This change of costs will, over the long run, make the devices more cost friendly for the general public.

Posted in Concept, GadgetsComments (3)

New Applications Coming to a Blackberry Near You

New Applications Coming to a Blackberry Near You

Currently out, as a free public download is the java development environment for Blackberry phones.  The download, currently in its public BETA, will enable any developer to make new programs for Blackberry Storm, Blackberry Bold and Blackberry Pearl Flip smartphones, as well as desktop simulators for the Blackberry Storm, Blackberry Bold and Blackberry Pearl Flip smartphones that accelerate mobile application testing.

These tools are known as the Blackberry JDE v.4.7 for short.  New API’s available with Blackberry JDE v4.7 that enables developers to take advantage of the new features of the Blackberry Storm smartphone.

Some of the features that you may see based on these tools include:

  • Touch-screen support-receive input from taps, slides and other gestures.
  • Orientation and rotation support-support portrait and landscape orientations and re-draw the screen when rotated.
  • Camera and Media Integration- Build camera and video recording capabilities into a custom application.
  • Set Homescreen Background Image- set the background image on a smartphone’s home screen

The Fip Phone Perl

What does Blackberry think about that?  “The latest versions of the Blackberry Java Development Environment present developers with opportunities to create innovative, mobile-savvy applications that take advantage of the robust feature sets of the Blackberry Storm, Blackberry Bold and Blackberry Pearl Flip smartphones,”

said Alan Brenner, Senior Vice President, Blackberry platforms at Research in Motion.  “Each new Blackberry smartphone presents an opportunity for mobile developers to create new applications or extend their innovations with the latest advances in mobile technology and application development.”

Posted in GadgetsComments (0)