Since I travel constantly for work, swapping my bulky MacBook Pro for a half-the-weight MacBook Air changed my life. Ultra-thin laptops like the Air—not to mention phones, tablets and iPods—come equipped with solid-state, or flash, memory, which writes data on tiny transistors rather than bulky spinning disks like conventional hard drives.
One night last february, Ben Allen and a group of electrical-engineering students at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands needed some help testing their 20-inch-long prototype of the classic 1980s Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) controller. The group was in the early stages of designing an absurdly enlarged version of the device—one as long and wide as a compact car—in an attempt to break the world controller-size record. In honor of the quest, they enticed some fellow geeks to join them at a campus pub by offering free Guinness.
This transformer ‘bot is one of the more interesting and sort-of-creepy robots we have seen in a while — it can curl up in a ball and await a command, or unfold its servo-driven limbs and pick its way, crab-like, across a surface. It cannot roll yet, but we are actually OK with this, because there is something much more unsettling about a rolling robot that unfolds and starts to walk.
I'd never given much thought to the idea of making a musical instrument before I set out on this project. Nor would I have had reason to expect much success, really, given that I'm practically tone deaf. But then I started to look at the waveforms involved – and that put sound into a framework with which I'm more familiar. In the end, I built a 5 note keyboard that I think actually sounds half decent.
In November 2010, Microsoft released Kinect, a motion-sensing accessory for its Xbox 360 gaming console. Kinect could measure depth by sending out thousands of small infrared dots to create a 3-D map of a room, and its microphones could pinpoint sound in space. Such hardware would not be confined to gesture-based videogames. Within a few days, engineers strapped the $150 device onto a robot vacuum and wired the machines together to allow the robot to see and hear. For developers and hackers, Kinect’s promise proved irresistible (and affordable): It could give machines sense.
Richard Perkins and Mike Tassey both worked in information technology in the U.S. Air Force before decamping to various cybersecurity consulting roles in and around the Department of Defense. But throughout their careers they’ve always considered themselves hackers at heart, which is why they spent the past two years developing the ultimate mobile hacking device: a drone aircraft that can discreetly break into Wi-Fi networks, emit jamming signals, and even pose as a cellphone tower to intercept communications from the ground.
A visit to one of the makeshift arms factories that helped liberate the country
By Sarah A. Topol
Posted 10.24.2011 at 11:03 am 23 Comments
This weekend, the leader of Libya’s governing National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, announced that the country was officially “liberated.” After eight months of civil war, Sirte, the last loyalist city and Col. Moammar Qaddafi’s hometown, fell to former rebel control on Thursday. In the midst of chaotic fighting, NTC forces caught the ex-Brother Leader hiding in a drainage pipe.
Darren Samuelson had just taken his last photo of Manhattan when the police arrived. He and his father had been working from an empty dock across the Hudson River, and the authorities wanted to know why they were pointing a five-foot-tall, six foot-long, 70-pound folding contraption at the city. Samuelson pleaded that it was a camera, and that he was just a tourist.
Turn an iPad into an accessory that can frame, light, and store professional-looking photographs
By Jake Ludington
Posted 10.08.2011 at 3:43 pm 1 Comment
Photographers have been using Apple’s tablet for viewing and sharing photos since it came out, but the device can also be a useful tool for enhancing shoots in the studio and on location. With the right apps and, in some cases, a few additional accessories, the iPad can work as a remote for setting up shots, an easy-tomaneuver light source, a second screen for editing, and more.
When I’m building something weird—my pedal-powered Panzer, for instance—I have to pull together all sorts of obscure parts. Over the years I’ve noticed that I continually reuse some of them in project after project. here are the five that I can’t live (or work) without.
By Rick Brodia
Posted 10.08.2011 at 3:13 pm 2 Comments
One of the most significant changes might be in speed, says Avi Greengart, the research director for consumer devices at market-intelligence firm Current Analysis. Carriers are rolling out faster 4G LTE (Long-Term-Evolution) networks, and hardware manufacturers will soon produce smartphones with powerful multicore processors.
In theory, remote controlled cars are great, but in practice they're just never quite exciting enough for me. That is, until I decided to attach a jet engine to one. Yes, you read that right – a jet engine.
Running down the far-left column of the periodic table, the readily available alkali metals: lithium, sodium, potassium, rubidium and cesium—all generate potentially explosive hydrogen gas when they touch water. The strength with which they react with H2O goes up steadily in the order listed. Lithium just sizzles, whereas cesium explodes powerfully and instantly. You’d expect that to mean that cesium makes the biggest explosion, but it’s not the case.
An oft-repeated truism (and a much-loved one, especially on Fridays) holds that writing and drinking go hand in hand. Now this is literally true, with a lovely invention that displays letters via a QWERTY keyboard, and pumps out potent potables with every keystroke.
Behold the amazing spirituous typewriter, courtesy of Russian artist and DIYer Morskoiboy. It converts words into colorful cocktails, via a handmade hydraulic system that connects to every letter in the Latin alphabet.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.