Archive for the ‘General’ Category

11 Amazing Gadgets and Inventions by Students and Amateurs

Amateur and student inventions have a long and noble tradition. We all know about Youtube or Ford, but did you know that the guy who invented TV was also an amateur? (thank you, for making Firefly possible.)

Lately, amateur science has been making strides all over the place thanks to better micro-chips, modular components, and huge advances in miniaturization and nanotech. Today’s amateurs (or “independent inventors,” as they are sometimes called) have a lot more to work with than their sprocket-wielding ancestors, and it shows. Here are a few of the most recent, and coolest creations.

  1. The Uno Electric Unicycle
    The Uno
    This hip-looking uni-wheeled electric bike was built, designed, and conceived by 18-year-old Ben Gulak. Sick of smog, he decided to create something that could be a viable alternative to driving, something like the Segway, only… way cooler. He came up with a cross between an electric bike and a motorcycle, with two wheels side-by-side. The bike is stabilized by gyros; to speed up, you lean forward. He designed it for commuters, and you can ride it for between 2 and 2.5 hours before it needs a recharge. He built it with the help of his grandfather, who is also a tinkerer and worked as an engineer, so he had all the necessary equipment on hand. The secret? The Uno is powered by electric wheelchair motors.

  2. The Flying Car
    Flying Car!
    Although I’m still waiting for something that looks like Luke’s landspeeder before I’ll believe that the future has truly arrived, this will have to do in the meantime. Its inventor, MIT student Carl Deitrich, calls his creation a “Personal Air Vehicle.” It’s a hybrid airplane-car, built to make short trips between 100 – 500 miles using the hundreds of small public airports and runways that dot the country.It’s about the size of an SUV, but unlike an SUV this baby only seats two, plus luggage. It uses gyroscopic control in the air, and once you land at the airport you don’t need to “de-plane” and wait with a hundred other people to snatch you luggage from the conveyor belt – instead, you just flip the “Personal Air Vehicle” into “Personal Ground Vehicle” (car) mode, fold the wings into the body, and hit the highway.The construction of the plane includes all the standard vehicle safety stuff – seatbelts, crumple-zones, etc, but under the hood there’s definitely something special. It uses an ultra-efficient rocket engine that doesn’t require a turbo-pump to deliver the fuel, so it’s both cheaper, and lighter, than any other engine of its kind, which is what makes the whole thing possible. And while Deitrich admits that the idea for a flying car is nothing new, he’s the first guy to actually have one in his garage.
  3. The Wall Scaling Batman Style Belt
    Bat Belt
    This utility belt is just like Batman’s, but real. It can lift 250lbs (ie: Batman plus his suit) 50 feet in 5 seconds. It’s supposed to be used for good – towing things, getting soldiers into hard-to-reach places, helping firefighters get up buildings (last year, another guy created a device that will help them get down again), etc. But we know better: it’s just completely cool to be able to scale buildings. There are several models being created now that get you up further, faster, or carry more weight, but the idea is the same.
  4. The Wearable Computer
    Pranav Mistry using SixthSense
    Debuting at TED this year was an invention by another MIT student, Pranav Mistry, whose speciality is human-machine interface. His “SixthSense” computer system is wearable, and it’s hard to describe, except to say that it is completely awesome and kind of crazy.It uses a real-time gestural interface – a camera around your neck and watches your hands, and a projector beside it allows you to project data onto walls, or onto your hand, or onto anything else, and interact with it as if it were real – using a projected calculator, checking a projected wristwatch, or rearranging projected photos.Some of the most wow-inducing examples presented at TED include a Wall Street Journal that, when pointed at, turns interactive, playing its lead story as a video, projected right onto the paper. You can play, pause, and enlarge the video by pressing the projected buttons underneath it. The set up is basically a laptop, camera, and projector, and the whole thing is internet-enabled, so you can look up product specs and compare prices right in a store, for instance, by pointing at an item and making a certain motion. It’s a hardware mash-up of found technologies from everywhere, but Mistry has put them together into a completely mind-bending package.
  5. The Invisibility Cloak
    Invisibility Cloak
    This cloak invariably invokes comparisons to Harry Potter, but it’s not quite that good – yet. Japanese prof Susumu Tachi and his grad students created what they call a “retro-reflective projection system,” which basically means that what’s on one side gets projected onto the other. The jacket is made up of special reflective beads, which function like cats-eyes, reflecting almost all the light back to the source with a minimum of scattering (the effect they harness is the same one desponsible for  “red-eye” in photos). When the rearward image is projected onto the front-facing beads, their shape and highly-focussed nature makes the picture look three dimensional… more or less. Each bead acts like a giant pixel. Watch the video to see it in action.


The Sharp Aquos DX HDTV Has a Built-in Blu-Ray Burner

Sharp 20" HDTV & Blu-ray Recorder

Never before has there been a Blu-ray burner integrated into a 20 inch HDTV, until this.  Sharp announced that they will be selling the 20″ AQUOS DX HDTV that includes a built-in digital TV tuner, the ability to play media files (MPEG-4 & AVC formats) and the ability to record video onto Blu-ray discs (BD-R/R DL and BD-RE/RE DL).  The Blu-ray burner will also be able to store over 30 hours of HD video for later viewing.   (more…)

Txtr Brings Social Networking to e-Book Readers

txtr reader

So you thought Amazon Kindle was the best device around that can deliver clear, crisp, text-like ebooks on an portable device? Guess again. Aside from the e-book readers that Amazon and Sony have developed, a German based startup is developing an e-book reader called Txtr. They claim that Txtr will deliver a better quality product with more features than the Amazon Kindle.

The Txtr uses the new electronic ink (eInk) display technology, that works by aligning black and white pigment particles in an electromagnetic field. These pigments reflect the light of the environment very naturally – like the pages of a book or a newspaper would look, making it easier to read in any lighting condition. (more…)

A Look at Handheld Game Consoles from 1976 to 2009

It was in 1976 when Mattel first introduced a handheld gaming console with Auto Race. However, it was in 1989 that this device reached mainstream popularity with Nintendo’s release of the Game Boy. Since then, manufacturers have released a wide variety of handheld game consoles which have captured the attention of gamers and the interest of non-gamers.

Twenty Five years ago, Tetris was finished by Alexey Pajitnov. A widely-respected and adored game that is also credited to have had catapulted the popularity of handheld game consoles. With this celebration, let us take a comprehensive look at handheld game consoles since they were first release.

  1. Mattel Auto Race, Football

    Mattel Autorace
    Mattel Electronics released the Auto Race in 1976. It is credited as the first handheld game manufactured and made available to the public. The console used about 512 bytes in memory. A smaller version for this console was also manufactured later. This was followed by Mattel Football, which was a huge success in the market and thus thought of by the public as the first Mattel game. Mattel Auto Race and Football are now sought after by gaming enthusiasts and are considered as collectors’ items.

  2. Epoch Game Pocket Computer
    Epoch Pocket Computer

    This handheld game console was released in Japan by Epoch in 1984. Epoch has released a total of 5 games for its Game Pocket Computer: Astro Bomber, Block Maze, Mahjong, Reversi and Store Keepers. It also has a puzzle game and a paint program built into the system. It had a 75 x 64 resolution for its LCD screen and powered by 4 AA batteries. The screen’s brightness could be dimmed and adjusted accordingly by the user. But Epoch Game Pocket Computer was not a success in Japan and due to this failure, it was never released for the North America market. Also, no other successors were release afterwards.

  3. Milton Bradley Microvision


    Introduced in 1979 by Milton Bradley Company, Microvision included cartridge interchangeability into handheld game consoles. It was designed by Jay Smith who later will design the Vectrex gaming console. It has enjoyed moderate success in its first year, with sales grossing $8 million in the first year of release. However, poor support for the handheld console by the manufacturer has rendered this a not so successful game as no more successors were manufactured. Microvison met its demise in 1981.

  4. Atari Lynx, Lynx II

    Atari Lynx
    The world’s first handheld game console to have color LCD! Atari Lynx was originally design by engineers at Epyx in 1987 with the name Handy. But Epyx had some financial trouble at that time and had to find a manufacturing partner. Nintendo did not accept the invitation (they were busy with the manufacturing of another handheld console….) from Epyx while Atari hopped on into the wagon. In 1989, at the Summer CES, Portable Color Entertainment System,  or what would later be called Atari Lynx.

    Sold for $199, Lynx also enjoyed some moderate success in its release, with Atari manufacturing it in limited quantities. Later, Atari Lynx was relaunched with an aggressive marketing campaign, redesigned console, and improved packaging. This release is referred to as Lynx II. Atari also dropped the price for the new package, without accessories, to $99.


    • Processor: two 16-bit custom CMOS chips running at 16MHz
    • Memory: 64K RAM
    • Sound: 4 channel sound 8-bit DAC for each channel
    • Color: 4096 color palette, 16 simultaneous colors from palette per scan line
    • Resolution: 160 x 102 (16,320 addressable pixels)
    • Screen Size: 3.5″ diagonal (approximately 3.25″ x 1.88″)
    • Battery holder (six AA) ~4-5 hours


Acer Announces Worlds First Google Android Powered Netbook

Android Powered Acer

In the the quest for netbook relevancy and superiority, Acer has always been in the tech news talking about the integration of Android to run on netbooks. Actually, the whole netbook manufacturing industry is showing good interest with using Android.

Now, the first netbook maker to break news about the use of Android into its netbooks is Acer. (more…)

Panasonic Releases First Portable Blu-Ray Player

Panasonic DMP-B15

The first portable Blu-ray player is available from Panasonic.  With a suggested retail price of $799.95, the DMP-B15 features an 8.9-inch WSVGA LCD screen, 2.5 hour rechargeable battery, and SD Memory Card slot.  An optional headrest mounting bracket can be used for in-car viewing.

Panasonic’s stand-alone Blu-ray technology is used in the portable player, giving it the highest level of image quality.  Also, included is BD-Live access available via Panasonic’s version of WebTV, VIERA CAST

Since the DMP-B15 includes VIERA CAST with BD-Live functionality, additional Blu-ray content can be accessed via the built in LAN port.  With the ability to access select web sites such as Amazon Video-on-Demand, YouTube, and Google’s Picasa Web Album, the player can turn any TV into an IPTV.


Project Natal: Microsoft Develops Full Body Control Technology for Xbox 360

Project Natal: Ricochet

During Microsoft’s 2009 E3 Press Conference event in Los Angeles, Microsoft revealed their brand new take on interactive video game controllers. Rather than match Nintendo’s Wii Motion Controller or try to retro-fit the Xbox 360 pad with an accelerometer like Sony’s PS3 Dualshock Sixaxis, Microsoft has decide to go a step forward with Project Natal.

Whether Project Natal is a glorified camera system or a brand new way to play video games is still hard to say, but if the Xbox 360 demonstration of games like Ricochet (a simple dodge ball like game) or Paint Party (a simplified version of MSPaint that uses your movements to paint a picture) are any indication, it is indeed a contender to knock down Nintendo Wii’s console as the casual gaming console. (more…)

  • Published in Gaming, General on 06/02/09
  • Posted by Cameron Manavian

A Look At Nintendo’s Wii Motion Plus

Wii Logo

Nintendo has finally annouced the release date for the much anticipated Wii Motion Plus.  The device, when attached to your exisiting Wiimote, will provide “1:1 motion response on screen”.  But will this $20 dollar accessory really change your Wii experience?

Unfortunately for most Wii owners who already have a library of games, the answer is No.  The are currently no plans for any sort of backwards compatibility so Mario Kart, Zelda, Wii Sports, and any other game released before June will rule out the need for Wii owners to upgrade their controllers.

Nintendo plans to bundle these devices with Tiger Woods 2010 and Wii Sports 2. (more…)

  • Published in Gaming, General on 06/02/09
  • Posted by Bill Colacci

The Dual-Screen Lenovo Elite ThinkPad W700ds Laptop


Imagine being able to watch TV on the one screen while you are working on a sales report on another screen. Until now this would only be possible with an external secondary screen.  However, Lenovo has changed all this.

The Lenovo w700ds looks like a standard laptop until the user pulls out the secondary  10.6″ WXGA side screen. The primary purpose of this second screen is to give photographers the ability to have a full screen of their photo while their photo editing tools are on the second screen.  Although this laptop is geared toward professional photographers looking to have a laptop for their work without sacrificing desktop functionality, I believe that in the future it will become a standard in higher-end laptops/mobile-desktops. (more…)

Microsoft to Debut the Zune HD This Fall


Zune fans have a reason to rejoice! Coming soon to a retailer near you, or at least in your mailbox if you order it online, the new Zune HD is set to debut this fall. It might not be an iPod, but the specs on these babies are nothing to scoff at.

How about a 3.3″ 480 by 272 OLED capacitive touchscreen display? Not impressed? How about built in HD radio and the capability of outputting HD? (more…)