A new robotic head can pinpoint the location of enemy shooters and call in the cavalry
By Gregory MonePosted 01.11.2007 at 2:00 am 3 Comments
The RedOwl is a robotic head that looks more like a PowerPoint projector than a sharpshooter's worst enemy. But don't let its Circuit City appearance fool you: Controlled by a laptop-wielding soldier, the RedOwl's superior senses can read a nametag from across a football field and identify the make and model of a rifle fired a mile away simply by analyzing the sound of the distant blast. And soon it could be putting its powers to use in Iraq.
So your buddy with the new plasma TV won´t shut up about how great the game looks in high-def. He´s right-it is like watching a whole new sport. But you don´t have to splurge on a 50-inch flat screen to quell your HD envy. Stations across the country broadcast HD signals over the air, absolutely free. And since most laptop screens already have enough resolution to display high-def, all you need is an HD tuner that plugs into a USB port on your Mac or PC, and you can enjoy the ultracrisp picture at home or away. Let´s see Mr. Plasma do that.
How a radical new implant that zaps patients back to life is upending our understanding of the brain
By Gregory MonePosted 01.11.2007 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
For six years after a brutal beating, a 38-year-old man lay in a minimally conscious state, effectively unable to communicate. Then, with the permission of his family, a team of neuroscientists at New York"Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical College and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation attempted a last-resort experimental treatment known as deep brain stimulation, or DBS. Using brain scans as a guide, they implanted tiny electrodes deep in the man's head and wired them to a pacemaker-like device beneath his collarbone.
This booth demo model is capable of sensing large objects on the floor, and if unable to run them over, picking them up with a smart robotic arm.
We at PopSci have always been big fans of the Roomba, the autonomous home robo-vacuum. Aside from being able to diligently cleaning your dirty, dirty floors without complaint, the Roomba has become become a thing of hacker legend. Enterprising robot fans the world over (including PopSci contributor and MAKE editor Phillip Torrone) have used its standard serial interface to make it do all kinds of tricks, from protecting your home to, well, cockfighting.
seems to be the year of the LCD. In TV land, liquid crystal displays
have always played little sibling to plasma technology. The most
obvious form of tutelage: They have literally been small in comparison.
At last year's CES, for example, Panasonic unveiled a plasma TV
measuring 108 inches diagonally. Meanwhile Sharp introduced the largest
LCD panel—at "only" 65 inches. This
year, Panasonic was still pimping its 103-inch TV, while Sharp stunned
everyone by debuting a 108-inch panel. For the first time ever, the
biggest TV in the world is an LCD. Size isn't all that matters, though. Companies also introduced technologies to zap LCD's other weaknesses vis-a-vis plasma:
Motion video is a classic problem.
Liquid crystals move sluggishly compared to fast-firing plasma pixels.
So in action scenes, images on LCD sets tend to have a smeared look
because the screen can't refresh fast enough. Until recently, 8
milliseconds was considered fast for an LCD pixel to turn on and off.
This year LG Electronics showed off TVs with a 5ms response, and Sharp
set the record with 4ms. The faster pixels allowed Sharp to double the
screen speed from 60fps to 120fps. Philips and Samsung also showed off
120fps sets. Demos of panning video with the old and new technologies
made the improvement clear.
Contrast ratio is another weakness.
LCD screens usually cant produce dark tones as well as plasma, because
some glow from the fluorescent backlight always leaks through the
screen. With grayish blacks, the ratio of light to dark is reduced, and
LCD images lack the depth found on plasma. But Sharp claims its new TVs
hit a contrast ratio of 15,000 to one by dimming the backlight as
needed. Plus, the faster pixels can shut down all the way before
switching to the next frame of video. Samsung bested this performance
by using a grid of light-emitting diodes as a backlight. It can
selectively brighten or dim the lights behind different parts of the
screen to deepen shadows and brighten highlights. With it Samsung
claims a 100,000 to one contrast ratio, and its side-by side comparison
of old and new technologise was dramatic. But Sharp doesn't take that
lying down. Using undisclosed technology, it demonstrated a prototype
TV that hits a million to one ratio.
LEDs are also expanding color.
Until recently, no TV could produce all the hues called for in the US
television standard, but plasma came closest to 100 percent. With LEDs
instead of fluorescent bulbs behind their screens, LCDs are now beating
plasma and going beyond the old TV standard. In fact, Sony is backing a
new system called x.v.Color that takes advantage of the newly expanded
color gamut. LG and Samsung are also bringing out LED-illuminated LCD
sets. —Sean Captain
In true Apple fashion, Steve Jobs and co. annually ditch the biggest electronics trade show in the world in favor of their own party, Macworld. The strategy seems to be working out just fine, because today most everyone here in Vegas is talking about the much-ballyhooed and now bona fide iPhone, and with good reason: This phone is hot.
As expected, it's a phone. It's a video iPod. It's an Internet device. It's a mobile OS X computer. And it's beautiful. The sleek phone is all screen, featuring an adaptable touch-based interface that, if anything like the iPod's ingenious scroll-wheel, promises to change the way people control their mobile devices. And beyond the interface, the iPhone packs in practically every high-end mobile phone feature and more: Wi-Fi, EDGE data capabilities (via Cingular, Apple's exclusive partner through 2009), full iTunes integration including CoverFlow, free push email from Yahoo, a Google Maps application, and, well, the list keeps going.
Playing second fiddle is Apple TV, the living room media box announced last September which also debuted today. But it's clearly the iPhone's day in San Francisco. And judging by the amount of people here in the press room watching Steve Jobs's keynote on their laptops, it's the iPhone's day in Las Vegas, too. —John Mahoney
Looking for our CES coverage? PopSci's editors are currently scouring the floor bringing you the best tech from the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Find photos, video and more at popsci.typepad.com/ces2007.
See automotive editor Eric Adams's photo-guide to the slickest new rides and concepts unveiled at the industry's premier event in Detroit
By Eric AdamsPosted 01.09.2007 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
Things are a teensy bit weird here in Detroit. It's a cross between Wacky Wednesday and Alice in Wonderland: Nothing is as it should be, and some things are downright trippy. Aside from the weather, which veered from drearily lukewarm and rainy to all snow and freezing wind, the true delirium began when you stepped inside. Within the main halls at Cobo Conference/Exhibition Center, guarded by a 15-foot-tall statue of boxing champ Joe Louis, things have taken a turn for the surreal. Consider:
LG, the Korean consumer electronics giant, made a big splash early this CES with the unveiling of the Super Multi Blue player, capable of playing both of the warring high-def disc formats, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. Teamed with the Chocolate music phone, the #1 CDMA handset in the U.S. and a solid line of HD TVs, LG has quickly become a force to be reckoned with. —John Mahoney
Take a quick tour of the booth below and click the individual images for captions.