A train station in Tokyo, Japan has put up a demo LED display which is powered by pedestrians stepping on a spring-board type power generator. "A person weighing 60kg (132 lbs) can generate 0.5W by stepping on the panel twice." The small panel you see above generates enough power for the LED screen to light up and display how much power has been generated so far. Although it will be removed by the end of the year, it still shows the potential power we can generate from the human body.
The greatest thing about this demo is it's sheer practicality in the real world. So many have been talking about solar panel highways or body-heat generating mobile devices, but not so much about kinetic energy. The energy-generating springboard has the additional benefit of being comfortable on the feet and back, something cement and pavement clearly lack. If these were installed in every pedestrian zone (heck, even on roads) it would feel like walking on a basketball court which are in themselves springy. If it proves to be more beneficial instead of developing a solar asphalt, it may just take over ground-level solar production.
A while back I reported on Microsoft's prototype called the SideSight, a cellphone which uses infrared sensors to determine your hand movement. Now it turns out Apple has applied for a patent on just that.
Sure, the image isn't too clear, but what you see is a possible infrared sensor array using LEDs or OLEDs as the sensor. You'll be able to rotate displays with just a wave of your hand if you bring it close to the screen. It doesn't stop there too. Apparently they're looking into the same technology for a possible OLED iPhone that will feature these sensors. Now THAT would be awesome.
What you're looking at is a robotic tank that is capapble of ruining your world. Built by twin brothers in Maine, the Ripsaw MS1 is capable of speeds up to 60mph, can perform maneuvers that would leave a crew bruised and battered, and can be outfitted with a remotely operated machine gun. On top of this, it's extremely rugged, easy to fix, and can caarry a payload of up to 2,000 pounds. This is one mean machine.
The crazy thing is that this was built by two guys in Maine for about $1 million dollars.
Movies sometimes have some pretty fantastical devices which we find hard to believe. There's the DeLorean from Back to the Future, the deneuralyzer from Men in Black and of course the holodeck from the Star Trek franchise. But some movies contain nifty gadgets and technology that seem simple enough to build or develop with current technologies. I mean, it's almost 2009 for christsake.
1. Safety Foam from Demolition Man
In the movie Demolition Man, Stallone's character John Spartan gets into a high-speed car accident during an electric car chase through the future streets of San Angeles. Instead of smashing to tiny bits, a foam fills the car and solidifies, saving his life and leaving him totally unscratched. It would seem easy enough to create such a foam (there might be problems with people inhaling it as it expands) so why the heck isn't it in cars yet?
2. Cold Fusion from The Saint
In The Saint, Simon Templar steals notes from a scientist which, when arranged properly, show how to make cold fusion work. While research into cold fusion technologies is progressing, it's kind of surprising there hasn't been a breakthrough yet in the field. You'd think someone could at least prove that it can or can't work by now.
If there's one thing that could creep you out this morning, it's that cyborg creatures (bugs, rats, birds and sharks) already exist. Researchers have been working heavily into cyborg creatures in order to reduce the cost of developing miniature robots. "The motivation is simple: why labour for years to build robots that imitate the ways animals move when you can just plug into living creatures and hijack systems already optimised by millions of years of evolution?" DARPA has heavily funded research into this kind of field, possibly hoping for a bug which can buzz around a room, spying on inhabitants.
Cyborg creatures feature heavily in science fiction movies, and not just for spying. Often cyborgs are touted as superior to robotic creatures since they combine real intelligence with robotic structure. It's weird to think of, but we may well be seeing rat-brain powered personal robots before robotic intelligence gets good enough to take over. Your dog can be taught to fetch the paper and all other sorts of tricks, why not more complicated tasks if given a better body? Fido, go do the laundry!
Check out the full article regarding cyborg developments at the NewScientist.
The University of Aberdeen in the UK has declared that a fully-holographic television (like in Star Wars, yes) is entirely possible by 2018. They base this conclusion on research of their own on holograpic technologies as well as emerging 3D-like televisions that promise to go on sale in the next three to four years. "Whilst the ultimate 3D experience, using fully interactive floating holographic images - similar to that which is seen when Princess Leia appears in front of Luke Skywalker as a hologram in Star Wars - could be on the market by 2018." The team came to this conclusion after recieving $350,000 in funding to study timelines, possibilities and possible applications of a fully holographic television.
The question I find myself asking (other than why someone would still use "whilst" in a sentence) is why someone would even want a holographic television. In every view of the future we see, holograms aren't used for television, but for interactions and display. It will be interesting to see how the public will react to holographic televisions, and how long it will take for them to give way to holographic commmunication and fake girlfriends (Sixth Day). If anything, expect at least five months of Princess Leia parodies once this comes out.
It seems that once a technology is created and shown to work, it's not too long before someone creates a similar product in their basement for a fraction of the price. Here's TradeMark Gunderson of the Evolution Control Comittee showcasing his rear-projection touchscreen he threw together using some LEDs and two WiiMotes. Hope it inspires you to build your own since the Microsoft Surface costs about $12,500.
John Callaham over at Big Download reports that Emotiv Systems, the company that was expected to release a brain-wave controller by the end of the year, is delaying its release due to issues of it actually working. The press release where it was unveiled at the Game Developers Conference may be a sign. "The public demo didn't go as planned; the device simply didn't work in front of the media who attended the press conference." And while the company later explained that the product didn't work properly due to "interference from wireless transmitters," it's probably safe to say that the product didn't work because it simply isn't working.
I guess we all should have seen it coming. A Brain Controlled Interface which is good enough to control video game characters seemed too good to be true for a 2008 release, and I guess it was. What Emotiv probably found out was that technology as specific as this, much like Google's Voice Recognition software, takes a lot of time to perfect. Google 411 has been working for years, using hundreds of thousands of voices to finally make a viable product. Emotiv needs more time to do just the same. The real question is how long will it take? 2009? Let's hope.
The Linux community could be described as a group of people across the globe with the best of intentions, but even within the Linux community there are still splits and divisions.
While the idea is to create community-based software that is free to everyone, getting quality software can be hard since instead of working on one program which can, let's say, edit video, there are multiple programs out there to perform this function. This has always surprised me about the Linux community. I always figured there would be just one program developers would work on to make the best instead of wasting their resources by working on multiple programs that perform the same function.
Why are there tons of media players when there should just be one? Why are there various operating systems when there should be just one? Even Ubuntu has multiple off-shoots which is understandable since people want to gear their computer towards gaming or speed specifically. But a media player?
But now it seems we might be seeing one platform dominating a field where previously there had been over 50 varieties.
Android has made Linux users happy with their Open Source Operating System. You can tell by looking through many of the different forums or sites Linux users use. Just about anytime you see a reference to a mobile phone operating system, Android is referenced in spades. A team of developers recently put the Linux kernal onto the iPhone. The reaction? People couldn't wait to try and put Android onto the iPhone. And while Apple has tried its best to keep the iPhone from being re-programmed, it may prove futile in the end.
The only hope Apple has now of avoiding the loss of its operating system (and becoming only a hardware manufacturer) is if it too opens up its programming to users and generates support from the community. As of now the iPhone is a novelty that, once Android is able to replicate or exceed, will eventually wear off. Then again, it may already be too late for Apple.
IBM held its Third Annual "Five in Five" which looks at emerging trends as well as what IBM itself is developing in their own labs around the world. Here's the vid.
While previous predictions given by these "Five in Five" releases can be somewhat fanciful (like mind-reading cellphones for instance), this latest list has the refreshing feel of being very near and very possible.
Solar technology will be built into everything
IBM states that within five years we could be seeing thin-film solar technology built into everything around us. This includes sidewalks, driveways, paint, windows and even clothing. Their belief is that thin-film solar will get so cheap that it can be applied everywhere in our lives. It's ability to be flexible also makes it easy to wrap around our daily devices which could benefit from a little extra power boost. It's interesting to think that while some people are clamoring for white asphalt and roofing tiles to reflect the Suns energy and save on lighting, another faction will emerge that will want solar film instead. Of course the question remains: are you going to want to hook a battery up to your clothing?
Your health can be pre-determined
Mapping DNA keeps getting faster and cheaper as the years go along. It only makes sense that very soon people will begin to use that genetic information to look for hereditary traits that could impact your health. In finding out you have a high chance of becoming diabetic, you may try and change your diet to avoid or delay its effects. Basically, it's the movie GATTACA without being able to actually alter the DNA before birth. I wonder how you'll take the news when they tell you that the junk food you so love is literally killing your body and taking years off your life.