New York's brightest students test today's smartest toy.
By Eliot Levy-Bencheton and Brendan MoorePosted 01.07.2002 at 8:21 pm 1 Comment
They're semi-intelligent, loud, and hellbent on a path of destruction. Not teenagers, but rather a new creation designed for them: Bio-Integrated Organisms, or Bio Bugs for short. The new toy from Hasbro represents a breakthrough of sorts -- it's only $40, yet it's hardwired with artificial intelligence created at Sandia National Laboratory. The result: These toys can work together to complete tasks.
Believe it or not, this may be the prototype for the killer app in portable computing. It's called augmented reality and it alters how we see the world. But there's still a little work to be done.
By Steve DitleaPosted 01.02.2002 at 2:18 pm 1 Comment
Walk down the street, look at the world. This is reality. Now repeat, but wearing an odd-looking, bulky pair of glasses that place into your line of vision selective, relevant bits of data about the world; the data hovers in sight like virtual Post-it Notes, annotating your view. This is augmented reality. Glasses on, you glance to the right, at a vaguely familiar restaurant, and click a small button in your hand.
By Paul FoglinoPosted 12.28.2001 at 12:47 am 1 Comment
From the days of Les Paul and Charlie Christian to those of Eric Clapton and Metallica, the electric guitar has remained basically the same. A "pickup" consisting of a magnet surrounded by a coil of wire is placed close to a metal string. The string's vibration changes the magnetic field, which transmits an electric signal through the coil. This signal is then broadcast through an amplifier.
But California's Lightwave Systems is about to introduce something new: an optical system that uses infrared light to cast a shadow of the string onto a series of photodetectors. As the string vibrates, the shadow does too, modulating a current and producing a signal much like a magnetic pickuponly a lot better.
I loaded it into the device, waited a half-hour, and -- voilà -- my shirt came out pressed and clean-smelling.
By Charles WardellPosted 12.17.2001 at 3:12 pm 1 Comment
When I first saw Whirlpool's Personal Valet a few months ago in North Carolina, I didn't have time for a formal test. But I did have a wrinkled shirt with me (more accurately, on me). I loaded it into the device, waited a half-hour, and -- voilà -- my shirt came out pressed and clean-smelling.
Our skeptical (and messy) reporter comes clean -- and so does his rug.
By William G. PhillipsPosted 12.17.2001 at 2:47 pm 1 Comment
It's the circle of life, I'd always figured: You buy a carpet, you stain a carpet, you use bottle cleaners to smear a carpet, you replace a carpet. Thus, I didn't give Dirt Devil's Spot Scrubber ($50) a second look when it came out last year. But over the past few months, it's removed wine, coffee, and tomato sauce from my carpet like magic. What's the secret? I asked Dirt Devil's Rob Matousek.
By Clayton DekornePosted 12.17.2001 at 2:26 pm 0 Comments
The annual Young Inventors Awards program challenges kids to design and build gadgets that solve real, everyday problems. Not only does the contest spur creativity, says Brian Short of the National Science Teachers Association, it also teaches a valuable lesson in problem solving: "Any complex tool can be broken down into several simple tools." Here are three semifinalists from this year's competition, along with comments from the inventors.
Designing an air conditioner to blow more cheaply.
By Charles WardellPosted 12.14.2001 at 7:08 pm 0 Comments
An Oklahoman's invention could dramatically lower the cost of air-conditioning. Like any air conditioner, the Kelix transfers heat from inside to outside by raising and lowering the pressure of a liquid refrigerant -- but without the power-hungry compressor that is mostly to blame for air-conditioning's notoriously high energy consumption.
A framing system that's a do-it-yourselfer's dream.
By Charles WardellPosted 12.14.2001 at 7:03 pm 0 Comments
What happens when six unskilled white-collar workers try to frame a three-bedroom house?
Recently, Carlton, Minnesota, landscape architect David Chmielewski and his wife, Jennifer, grabbed four helpers and gave it a try. In less than two days, armed only with hammers, they finished what Chmielewski calls "the squarest, straightest house I've ever been in."
Satellite radio promises
no static, few commercials, and 100 channels . . . at a cost.
By Marc HorowitzPosted 12.10.2001 at 5:52 pm 1 Comment
Maybe you first tune in the station driving past some lobster-roll shack just outside Bangor, Maine. You know the music isn't coming from the local FM radio tower a few miles away. Instead, it's being digitally compressed and uplinked from a massive command center in Washington, D.C., bouncing off a pair of Boeing satellites in geostationary orbit high above the equator, and finding its way to a sleek little shark-fin antenna mounted on the trunk. The technology is at best a compelling afterthought, because after the fourth or fifth song, you realize the music speaks to you.