The Consumer Electronics Show doesn't start till next week, but there's already some cool releases starting to roll out. We're especially looking forward to Olympus's LS-10; one of the only digital audio recorders that works with a wireless remote. Place the recorder on a speakers podium, for instance, and the infrared remote starts it from across the room.—Lauren Aaronson
We write about Dysons high-tech vacuums a
lot, and today I got a chance to meet the man behind the machines, Mr.
James Dyson himself. He was in town to show off his super-fast hand dryers
(which we blogged about last
year), but I was more interested in the motor inside the dryer, which
doubles as the powerhouse of the DC12
vacuum sold in Japan.
This brushless electric motor, controlled by a
computer chip, is about half the size and weight of a standard vacuum motor,
but it can spin three times faster and create more suction. And because it
has a computer chip in it, it can do all sorts of other things that you
wouldnt expect a vacuum to do—like talk on the phone.
Dyson said that when
the DC12 rolls off the production line, its chip is packed with product
data, like the kind of testing its undergone. Then every time you use the
vacuum, the chip updates itself with the number of times youve used it and
some performance stats. If you ever call customer service, you just hold
your phone up to the vacuum, and the chip transmits info as a sound, like a
fax machine. This often gives customer service enough details to diagnose a
problem right away, without you having to reel off serial numbers or
remember the minutiae of your vacuuming difficulties.
As Dyson explained,
this is a low-tech way of getting the high-tech connected appliances that
weve all been waiting for.—Lauren Aaronson
An easy-to-install, gas-powered wheel turns any ordinary bicycle into a moped
By Lauren AaronsonPosted 06.01.2006 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
Cycle your way out of traffic jams and high fuel costs-without breaking a sweat. Simply slide a canister of gasoline into your water-bottle holder, clip a throttle to your handlebars, and swap your front wheel for the Wheel, designed by Denver-based RevoPower (revopower.com). The Wheel's hub holds a 23cc, two-stroke internal combustion engine and a superthin gear train; less than three inches thick, it all fits between the prongs of your bike's front fork.
Models posing as scientists preferred orange test-tube water two-to-one over blue in clinical trials.
Weve heard all about the problems with clinical trials: Journals often prefer to print headline-grabbing positive results (i.e., Vioxx works wonders) over negative results (i.e., Vioxx doesnt do anything at all, or, even worse, it hurts you). So doctors and patients are sometimes left wondering whether theyre missing some important information about a new drug. Thats where the new journal PLOS Clinical Trials comes in. Just launched two weeks ago, it aims to publish clinical trials based on their usefulness to the medical community, not on their novelty. Any well-conducted study has a good shot at reaching the public eye, and even casual readers like myself can understand the contributions and limitations of a study, thanks to an easy-to-read explanation at the top of each article. Whats more, PLOSs open-access policy ensures that important findings reach doctors in far-flung and resource-poor places. Public health workers, such as malaria researchers, are already jumping at the chance to share their knowledge. Whether the drug companies follow suit remains to be seen. —Lauren Aaronson
Gettin' Jiggy in the Gyroscan
Like Butta (On a Hot Skillet)
Who Made You Fat? Yer Mama
Translation: "Sorry me say you fat. You beautiful and thin."
Remember Esperanto, that 19th-century attempt at creating a universal language? (Which, by the way, is apparently still kicking). Well, now theres a version for the cellphone era. Zlango is a system of cartoonish images—think: advanced emoticons—that you can use to send text messages. Since concepts are represented by pictures, rather than words, the developers hope that people who speak different languages will be able to communicate with each other. At the moment its available only in Israel, the companys base, but it may soon spread. Start practicing now, because even text-crazy teens may have a hard time understanding a Zlango-ized "Little Red Riding Hood". —Lauren Aaronson
Looks like Im always singing the same tune: telephone karaoke! Previously, I wrote about a number you can call to sing along; soon, you'll be able to karaoke on the go without even dialing. The cellphone game Mobiloke will play songs with the lead singers voice removed while your screen scrolls through lyrics and highlights the current phrase, just like a real karaoke machine. We're not sure yet when the service will launch in the U.S., but word has it that a big distribution deal is about to be announced for Canada, where Mobiloke will probably be available in late May or early June. With any luck, we'll all be making sweet music by the end of summer. —Lauren Aaronson
The German word for cellphone is "handy." After a demonstration I recently
saw, the name seems less silly. A Canadian company called Gesturetek has invented a technology that lets any
cameraphone act like a joystick. That's right, your hand controls the
movement of a cursor on the screen. The software, Eyemobile, compares successive
views from the camera lens to judge the movement of your hand. That movement
can propel a ball through a maze, as in its TiltaWorld demo, and more may
come soon. It's like an old-fashioned handheld game, only electronic. Now
that's handy. —Lauren Aaronson
Were always reading about ways that technology can improve our health, from pills to robotic nurses. Now theres another way. The Blogswana project, currently under development by the Committee to Protect Bloggers, plans to give online voices to people in Botswana affected by AIDS. Since many of them dont have easy access to technology, local journalism students will interview them regularly, post their stories for them, and return to them with comments and questions submitted by blog readers. The effort will not only bridge the digital divide, it will bring important information about AIDS to the African community and to the rest of the world. —Lauren Aaronson
Will a computer soon replace Simon Cowell? The Ring ‘n Sing demo, from British company VoxGen, rates your singing abilities by telephone. Dial +44 870 350 2560—as long as you dont mind humiliation at international rates—and sing along to one of five songs. Speech-recognition software analyzes the pattern of your notes, compares it with the original, and issues a score. But be prepared: An automated judge isnt necessarily a kinder one. My nervous rendition of Im So Excited earned me a 1 out of 10 and a Cockney-accented Oh dear! That was horrible! —Lauren Aaronson
Museums arent just for ancient artifacts—theyre also for blogs, wikis and podcasts. The Dana Centre at Londons Science Museum electrifies itself this week with a festival of do-it-yourself media. Researchers and artists will lead workshops (BYO laptop) showing novices how to mix their own digital music or use open-source publishing tools. Attendees will learn more about their newfound power at evening lectures on copyright protection, online communities and the like. Please, someone buy a ticket to London so that you can report back on what Robotic Feral Public Authoring is. —Lauren Aaronson