Thanko earphones come with integrated alarm

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Thanko does come up with some pretty zany devices from time to time, but here is something which is much more useful than the rest – we’re talking about a pair of earphones which will feature an integrated alarm – this means you can always jolt yourself awake even though you’ve fallen asleep to your favorite tunes. Guess it will come in handy for folks who tend to make long commutes from work to home (and vice versa), knowing that the train will stop at a specific time. Perhaps it would be better if this device had some sort of noise supression technology built in for added effectiveness.

Apogee Electronics has JAM guitar input for the iPad

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Yes, we know that the new iPad was just announced earlier today, but that doesn’t mean its predecessor is consigned to the reject bin immediately. No sir, how about gracing your tablet with the JAM guitar input from Apogee Electronics? This device will also play nice with other iOS devices like the iPhone and iPod touch, where PureDIGITAL technology will see the JAM enable musicians to practice, record and rock out with ultimate tone thanks to the guitar amps and effects that can be found in Apple’s GarageBand software. This is a plug-and-play device, so you need not go through any kind of configuration – and it is compatible with the iPad 2 as well, all going for $99 a pop. Additional hardware information on the JAM can be found in the extended post.

* PureDIGITAL instrument connection delivers pristine sound quality
* Designed for electric guitar and bass
* With no confusing setup, you can start recording in minutes
* Made for Apple’s GarageBand software
* Works with GarageBand on iOS devices or with any Core Audio compatible application on a Mac
* Control knob allows easy input level adjustment
* Multicolor LED for status indication and input level monitoring
* Studio quality instrument preamp with up to 40dB of gain
* High quality locking output connects directly to iPad, iPhone and iPod touch dock connector port or USB port on a Mac
* 44.1kHz, 24-bit analog-to-digital conversion
* Auto Soft Limit for optimal input level

BeeWi controls Mini Cooper via Bluetooth

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Want to drive a car using a remote device, ala James Bond and his Sony Ericsson phone in the backseat while piloting a BMW 7 Series? Well, here is something less adventurous but equally exciting (for some) – an Android-powered BeeWi which controls a miniature Mini Cooper through the use of a Bluetooth connection. Intuitive motion control using a smartphone’s orientation sensor or touchscreen interface makes controlling this cute little car a hoot, where it will come with an extremely zippy motor alongside full directional steering. Powered by a trio of AA batteries, it will require an Android 2.1+ smartphone or a Nokia Symbian S60 (3rd or 5th edition).

Cisco ISB7005 IPTV set top box goes through FCC

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Cisco has just sent their ISB7005 IPTV set top box to the FCC, and it is a good thing that said device has passed through the FCC’s hoops with more than flying colors. It will come equipped with 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity for you to set up your home entertainment system anywhere you like, as long as you are within vicinity of a wireless network. The ISB7005 will play nice with various HD content of up to 1080p in resolution, while other connectivity options include S-Video, component, composite and HDMI. There doesn’t seem to be a hard drive as can be seen from the internal photos over at the FCC, so one can draw a resonable, intelligent guess that said device will access DVR content on other U-Verse STBs on the network. We now await word on pricing or availability for the Cisco ISB7005 IPTV set top box.

Auto Ink Tattoo Machine could be the next big thing

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Chris Eckert has managed to churn out a CNC tattoo machine that intends to be different from the rest – calling it the Auto Ink, this is actually a three axis numerically controlled sculpture. Whenever the main switch is triggered, the operator will be assigned with a religion as well as it’s corresponding symbol, followed by tattooing that onto the person’s arm. The operator him/herself will not be able to have any control over the assigned symbol, and whatever is tattooed onto your arm will be randomly assigned, so make those who have some pretty strong personal beliefs would do well to think this “lottery” of sorts before continuing. After all, tattoo reversals are not only painful, but expensive as well. Best to stick to a real tattoo artist to get what you want.

Penguin Ambidextrous Vertical Mouse is a mouthful

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What you see here is actually the Penguin Ambidextrous Vertical Mouse, and while it looks super weird like all get out, it is actually useful in helping one reduce wrist injuries, including the famous carpel tunnel syndrome as well as repetitive strain injury.
Developed by Posturite, this device requires you to grasp the Penguin like a joystick, where it results in the wrist being kept in a natural position – and hence, reducing wrist strain. Moving around like a regular mouse simply by sliding the Penguin over surfaces below, it comes equipped with left and right click buttons, a scroll wheel, and a rocker switch. Having passed through the hoops over at the FCC, the Penguin Ambidextrous Vertical Mouse is tipped to retail for £49.95 and £69.95 for the wired and wireless versions, respectively.

What you see here is actually the Penguin Ambidextrous Vertical Mouse, and while it looks super weird like all get out, it is actually useful in helping one reduce wrist injuries, including the famous carpel tunnel syndrome as well as repetitive strain injury. Developed by Posturite, this device requires you to grasp the Penguin like a joystick, where it results in the wrist being kept in a natural position – and hence, reducing wrist strain. Moving around like a regular mouse simply by sliding the Penguin over surfaces below, it comes equipped with left and right click buttons, a scroll wheel, and a rocker switch. Having passed through the hoops over at the FCC, the Penguin Ambidextrous Vertical Mouse is tipped to retail for £49.95 and £69.95 for the wired and wireless versions, respectively.

Dolby updates 3D glasses for a more comfortable movie going experience

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If you’ve watched 3D movies in the cinema before, chances are good that you would have noticed the pretty heavy pair of 3D glasses that you had to wear. Dolby knows this too, and has just announced that they will be rolling out a newer and lighter pair of 3D glasses for you. Not only is it more mobile, it will also come with anti-theft measures alongside some RFID tag for inventory control purposes. Thinner lenses that can be washed and reused for hundreds of times are definitely what theater owners would have high on their wishlist, and at $12 a pop (definitely cheaper when purchased in bulk), they’re definitely not too expensive when you think about it. Will a lighter pair of glasses make you return to the theater more often for 3D movies?

Casio G-Shock Bluetooth watch revealed

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Casio has just revealed their very first Bluetooth G-Shock watch. Normally such watches are pretty much useless as watches due to the fact that their Bluetooth connection requires the watches to be recharged frequently. However, Casio’s G-Shock watch won’t have such problems. Designed to be compatible with Bluetooth 4.0 – which is touted to use very little power, the Casio G-Shock Bluetooth watch will run for 2 years with a single CR2032 battery. The watch will wirelessly sync with your phone’s time, manage your incoming alerts as well as alarms. Design wise it looks like any other G-Shock, but since it’s their first Bluetooth watch, I guess they didn’t want to go all out with the design. No prices or release date have been announced yet, but stay tuned for more details.

Digital Neck Pillow makes traveling a whole lot more enjoyable

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Those of you who tend to do a whole lot of traveling would know that a comfortable neck pillow is extremely essential for one’s comfort, after all, we know that the seats on buses and airplanes are properly arched for your back, but when it comes to your neck, they just can’t seem to get it right. The Digital Neck Pillow concept might just change your mind about traveling long distance in economy class, as it is not only soft to the touch, one can also control its temperature to suit the current environment, while boasting an integrated MP3 player so that you can soothe your ears with your favorite tracks. No idea on whether passengers around you share your enthusiasm for Lady Gaga though, so it is best to use this with a pair of headphones where possible.

Mil-Surplus Heli Helmet game headset looks far out

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The Mil-Surplus Heli Helmet game headset that you see here is truly one-of-a-kind, after all, it is a DIY project that sees plenty of love go into it. What used to be a bargain-bin surplus helicopter helmet that already has integrated speakers and a microphone will be used to communicate with a gaming console or a handset via Bluetooth. Apart from that, it will also come with a whole second circuit that has been integrated to output to an RF-wireless headset which in turn, is also routed through the original system’s speakers. This special combination will allow one to wear a helmet while experiencing ambient video-game sounds and chat-communications on a single device. Perfect for those late night gaming sessions without having to wake up the missus beside you, after all, wearing this will also help you drown out her snoring.

Hercules XPS Diamond 2.0 USB Speakers

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Can a speaker be a girl’s best friend? We suppose so, if the speaker is made out of diamonds. Well, theoretically speaking, it is going to be an extremely expensive pair of speakers if this were to be true – but perhaps something like the Hercules XPS Diamond 2.0 USB Speakers might make do as a replacement. Specially designed to look like jewels, the speakers will come with a couple of mini-satellites which feature a black lacquered finish (seems to be a fingerprint magnet) that has a see-through base to boot. Individual satellites measure a mere 3.5″ in diameter, where the kit itself will be accompanied by a stylish black velvet carrying pouch. This unique Hercules XPS Diamond 2.0 USB Speakers will retail for $39.99 when it arrives later this April. What we like the most about this is, it will be powered when hooked up to a USB 2.0 port, so that means you have one less power supply to worry about (and keep your workplace neater).

PreVue pregnancy screen offers preview of baby

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Wearable e-textiles seem to be gaining traction these days in a variety of application, so it is no surprise to see the aptly named PreVue pregnancy screen more than ready to test a potentially receptive market. This abdomen attachment is worn so that expecting parents are able to check out their child’s growth and development with each passing day. The brainchild of Melody Shiue, the whole idea of the PreVue is to introduce pre-birth bonding thanks to “fetal visualization”, making it easier as well for the post-birth health of both the mother and child. Perhaps this will help ease the number of post-partum depression among mothers, as parents will be able to connect with their kid before he/she arrives kicking and crying to the world. Conceptually, it is great on paper, but practically speaking, will we see similar real life examples if it ever rolls off the production line? One thing’s for sure, something like this won’t come cheap.

TRITTON AX Pro from Mad Catz

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Mad Catz has just announced the TRITTON AX Pro, a Dolby Digital True 5.1 Gaming Headset that will make its way towards the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3, where it will
make full use of 8 precision-balanced speakers (with 4 of them inside each ear cup) that are more than capable of reproducing 5.1 surround sound accurately sans emulation or simulation. Within each ear cup of the AX Pro, there is a front speaker, center speaker, rear speaker and subwoofer. Replicating a typical 5.1 home cinema installation, the TRITTON AX Pro will offer gamers with a realistic and unparalleled audio experience, boasting individual backlit volume controls which are located on the handy in-line remote. With an in-line remote, it enables pro-gamers to dial-in the exact sound field required in order to gain a slight (albeit competitive) advantage. You can continue gaming for hours thanks to its comfortable ear pads, it will retail for £149.99.

Aldebaran robotics wants Nao to be more helpful in disastrous situations

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Japan is the country with the highest number of robots, especially those commercially released ones that are meant to make life a whole lot more convenient and less lonely. Well, the Nao robot has been
demonstrated in the past to be able to handle a little bit of soccer, but its developer intends to up the ante by upgrading Nao into a range of robots which are able to traverse rocky roads without missing a beat, making them useful even in hazardous situations. The recent tsunami to hit Japan has been cited as a catalyst for this unprecedented move, and we do hope that this 58cm humanoid robot will be more useful in the future with such noble intentions in mind. Currently, over 1,300 Nao robots are in use worldwide, so perhaps this idea isn’t too farfetched – make sure Nao has a compartment inside it to carry food and water to potential victims trapped under all that rubble. Best of all is, Nao won’t get tired nor does he have a human nose, so any stench or odor of death that builds up will not numb it during its “work”.

Japanese Quake and Tsunami Ultimate Test for Rescue Robots

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As observed on RobotLand, shortly after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, "Rescue robots help relief efforts in the aftermath of earthquakes and other disasters by navigating through wreckage that is too dangerous for people to enter and by gathering information on missing persons and the surrounding conditions. Small unmanned marine vehicles, both surface (boats) and ROVs (underwater), can be of assistance in inspecting bridges for underwater damage or debris posed to crash into the substructure and damage the bridge. Recent years have seen rapid advances in the development of these robots, and Japan is a global leader in the field." Between the advanced state of robotics in Japan, the extent of the damage, and the likelihood that the wreckage continues to conceal living persons, the current situation presents an unprecedented, pressing opportunity to put the whole range of rescue robots to the test. Ironically, as reported by the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, "the leading researchers from Japan in rescue robotics" were in the U.S. for the CRASAR-organized JST-RESPONDR exercise and workshop, although they returned to Japan immediately. Robin Murphy of CRASAR has been mentioned here repeatedly in connection with rescue robots. was also quick to publish an article about (primarily Japanese) rescue robots, including photos, and has video.

iRobot Sends Military Robots to Japan

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Writing for AolNews, Lauren Frayer provides a clearer view than has appeared in other, similar articles, regarding iRobot's donation of four robots, a mix of PackBots and Warriors, for use in helping to bring the emergency at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant to an end. Frayer quotes Tim Trainer of iRobot as saying

We've got some technology that isn't pointedly designed for the specific [nuclear] mission, but we're going to send that forward and try to understand, 'Could we provide some value to the Japanese, to try to mitigate this horrible situation?' ... Certainly, radiation will have some impact on the circuits. ... Some of this will be understanding what it might be like to operate in such conditions. To be quite honest with you, some of this will be experimentation. ... We are in the robotics business, and I think we'll learn a lot from applying our technology a bit differently here. The hope is that we will become smarter as a result of this.

Trainer also said that (at the time of the interview) he didn't know whether the donated robots had already been sent into the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, or when they might be. Such decisions are entirely under the control of Japanese authorities.
Update: This article on the U.K. website Daily Mail includes two photos of PackBots at work and two closeups of a Warrior.

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New Robot Could Aid Astronauts in Space

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Robonaut2 surpasses previous dexterous humanoid robots in strength, yet it is safe enough to work side-by-side with humans. It is able to lift, not just hold, this 20-pound weight (about four times heavier than what other dexterous robots can handle) both near and away from its body.

The next generation of robot astronauts is on its way, and they are even faster, stronger and more dexterous than before.

NASA and General Motors have unveiled Robonaut 2, a more advanced version of the original Robonaut built 10 years ago in a partnership between NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. Its nickname, "R2," bears a striking resemblance to Star Wars' R2D2 ? "a similarity we've noticed," said Ron Diftler, NASA's Robonaut project manager.

This new humanoid machine, developed and built with the help of engineers from Oceaneering Space Systems of Houston, is more dexterous, with a four-jointed thumb as opposed to three, enabling it to do work beyond the scope of prior humanoid machines. "The thumb is obviously important, helping make us the dominant species on the planet," Diftler said. The robot's thumb "has roughly the order of flexibility of an astronaut in a spacesuit glove."

R2 is also four times faster than the original Robonaut, capable of moving roughly 4.5 mph. It is stronger as well, able to lift 20 pounds of weight, about four times what other dexterous robots can handle.

To make it work safely alongside people, "we put in more force sensors both on a joint and arm level, so if it comes into contact with astronauts unexpectedly, it can stop or completely shut down, depending on the force level it sees," Diftler explained. The roughly 300-pound robot, whose proportions are about that of a large human's, is also covered in soft fabric, to help cushion it in case it comes into contact with people and cover it so that it doesn't accidentally rip spacesuits.

These advances could help R2 manipulate flexible materials. The idea is to relieve the astronaut crews of the burden of tasks such as setting up thermal blankets or fetching tools in place. "Our goal is to have astronauts do more science and exploration," Diftler said.

The researchers developed the robot as a humanoid "because when your main objective is to help astronauts, you want the robots to work with the same tools and interfaces that humans do, which lends itself to machines like human hands, with a similar reach when it comes to arms," Diftler explained. "Continuing along that track, you end up with a human robot."

R2 can be tele-operated, "but the method we propose for operating it is what we call supervised autonomy, where from the ground, the robot can be given a sequence of commands, and after it completes each section of the command, activity can be verified from the ground's camera view before it moves on to the next part," Diftler said. "That way you can work around the time delay between Earth and space, which is a big problem with tele-operation." The astronauts can also operate R2 from inside their spacecraft if necessary.

NASA and GM began working together on R2 three years ago through a Space Act Agreement, with GM contributing an undisclosed amount of funding to the research, producing one robot for GM and another for NASA. NASA and GM have long been partners, starting in the 1960s with the development of the navigation systems for the Apollo missions. GM also played a vital role in the development of the Lunar Rover Vehicle, the first vehicle to be used on the moon.

These robots hold promise on Earth as well as in space ? they can help to build cars and assist astronauts during hazardous missions, too, the scientists say.

"For GM, this is about safer cars and safer plants," said Alan Taub, GM's vice president for global research and development. "When it comes to future vehicles, the advancements in controls, sensors and vision technology can be used to develop advanced vehicle safety systems. The partnership's vision is to explore advanced robots working together in harmony with people, building better, higher quality vehicles in a safer, more competitive manufacturing environment."

"This cutting-edge robotics technology holds great promise, not only for NASA, but also for the nation," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Given the uncertainty currently surrounding the status of NASA's human spaceflight program, it remains unknown when R2 might see use. R1 was never approved to go on a space mission. "My hope is to get R2 in space as soon as possible," Diftler said.


USB 3.0, have you ever hear it?

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Nehalem and Swift Chips Spell the End of Stand-Alone Graphics Bo?ards

When AMD purchased graphics card maker ATI, most industry observers assumed that the combined company would start working on a CPU-GPU fusion. That work is further along than you may think.

What is it? While GPUs get tons of attention, discrete graphics boards are a comparative rarity among PC owners, as 75 percent of laptop users stick with good old integrated graphics, according to Mercury Research. Among the reasons: the extra cost of a discrete graphics card, the hassle of installing one, and its drain on the battery. Putting graphics functions right on the CPU eliminates all three issues.

Chip makers expect the performance of such on-die GPUs to fall somewhere between that of today's integrated graphics and stand-alone graphics boards--but eventually, experts believe, their performance could catch up and make discrete graphics obsolete. One potential idea is to devote, say, 4 cores in a 16-core CPU to graphics processing, which could make for blistering gaming experiences.

When is it coming? Intel's soon-to-come Nehalem chip includes graphics processing within the chip package, but off of the actual CPU die. AMD's Swift (aka the Shrike platform), the first product in its Fusion line, reportedly takes the same design approach, and is also currently on tap for 2009.

Putting the GPU directly on the same die as the CPU presents challenges--heat being a major one--but that doesn't mean those issues won't be worked out. Intel's two Nehalem follow-ups, Auburndale and Havendale, both slated for late 2009, may be the first chips to put a GPU and a CPU on one die, but the company isn't saying yet.

USB 3.0 Speeds Up Performance on External Devices

The USB connector has been one of the greatest success stories in the history of computing, with more than 2 billion USB-connected devices sold to date. But in an age of terabyte hard drives, the once-cool throughput of 480 megabits per second that a USB 2.0 device can realistically provide just doesn't cut it any longer.

What is it? USB 3.0 (aka "SuperSpeed USB") promises to increase performance by a factor of 10, pushing the theoretical maximum throughput of the connector all the way up to 4.8 gigabits per second, or processing roughly the equivalent of an entire CD-R disc every second. USB 3.0 devices will use a slightly different connector, but USB 3.0 ports are expected to be backward-compatible with current USB plugs, and vice versa. USB 3.0 should also greatly enhance the power efficiency of USB devices, while increasing the juice (nearly one full amp, up from 0.1 amps) available to them. That means faster charging times for your iPod--and probably even more bizarre USB-connected gear like the toy rocket launchers and beverage coolers that have been festooning people's desks.

When is it coming? The USB 3.0 spec is nearly finished, with consumer gear now predicted to come in 2010. Meanwhile, a host of competing high-speed plugs--DisplayPort, eSATA, and HDMI--will soon become commonplace on PCs, driven largely by the onset of high-def video. Even FireWire is looking at an imminent upgrade of up to 3.2 gbps performance. The port proliferation may make for a baffling landscape on the back of a new PC, but you will at least have plenty of high-performance options for hooking up peripherals.

Wireless Power Transmission

Wireless power transmission has been a dream since the days when Nikola Tesla imagined a world studded with enormous Tesla coils. But aside from advances in recharging electric toothbrushes, wireless power has so far failed to make significant inroads into consumer-level gear.

What is it? This summer, Intel researchers demonstrated a method--based on MIT research--for throwing electricity a distance of a few feet, without wires and without any dangers to bystanders (well, none that they know about yet). Intel calls the technology a "wireless resonant energy link," and it works by sending a specific, 10-MHz signal through a coil of wire; a similar, nearby coil of wire resonates in tune with the frequency, causing electrons to flow through that coil too. Though the design is primitive, it can light up a 60-watt bulb with 70 percent efficiency.

When is it coming? Numerous obstacles remain, the first of which is that the Intel project uses alternating current. To charge gadgets, we'd have to see a direct-current version, and the size of the apparatus would have to be considerably smaller. Numerous regulatory hurdles would likely have to be cleared in commercializing such a system, and it would have to be thoroughly vetted for safety concerns.

Assuming those all go reasonably well, such receiving circuitry could be integrated into the back of your laptop screen in roughly the next six to eight years. It would then be a simple matter for your local airport or even Starbucks to embed the companion power transmitters right into the walls so you can get a quick charge without ever opening up your laptop bag.