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Kickstarter’s iAccessory Evolution

Kickstarter, the well-known crowdfunding website, has evolved from an art community into a techie shopping center. The website runs on a reward system: a backer of a project is given a prize for pledging support. Some projects offer tangible prizes, such as t-shirts, while others promise little more than the joy of being involved. But for gadget start-ups with prototypes, the promised reward is often the product itself. When users pledge a set amount of cash for a product to be delivered in the future, it looks a lot like a sale, even if Kickstarter stresses that it is not….

Duke Engineers Showcase a Prototype Gigapixel Camera

David Brady and his colleagues at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering have taken the phrase “high resolution” to a whole new level. They’re building gigapixel cameras, which produce images that resemble some of the panoramic mosaics you may have seen. The difference is that Brady’s cameras can take giga-snapshots, capturing the entire scene all at once rather than forcing you to take a series of images and later stitch them together.  

Microsoft KinEtre Lets You Possess People, Inanimate Objects

Kinect technique lets your body control virtual avatars of things around your house.   Ever wanted to make your bookshelf shake its booty just by shaking your own? Graphics gurus at Microsoft Research have a new system that will let you do just that—possess other inanimate objects around your house or even make images of other people move. The KinÊtre project starts with a KinectFusion scan of an object or person and then animates the image using your own body as a guide.  

Theodore Roosevelt, Captured on Spinning Wax

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, was a gifted orator whose animated style, progressive politics, and clipped patrician diction spoke for and to the common people. And though he died in 1919, we still know his distinct voice because many of his speeches were recorded on early audio equipment—most notably, the wax cylinder phonograph invented by Thomas Edison.   Recently, at the Sagamore Hill National Historical Site, the former president’s former home on Long Island, New York, Roosevelt’s words came to life once more and once more were captured in wax. This time, though, renowned Roosevelt impersonator…

A Robot Ankle for Amputees

Until recently, an artificial leg was an inert object—a clunky piece of wood or plastic that supported a user, but didn’t help much beyond that. But these days artificial limbs can contain advanced sensors and microprocessors, and their motors can provide a power boost for each step.   The BiOm, one of the world’s most advanced ankles comes from the cutting-edge prosthetics company iWalk. The company was founded by MIT professor Hugh Herr, who directs the biomechatronics group at the MIT Media Lab. Herr is himself a double amputee: As a young man, he lost both legs below the knees…

MakerBot’s Replicator 2

We’ve got great news. Not only did MakerBot release two new printers on Wednesday, the Replicator 2 and the Replicator 2X, CEO Bre Pettis thinks IEEE members are “basically the smartest people in the world.”   In addition, MakerBot released an updated software suite, MakerWare, and opened up a store in Manhattan, complete with printers, a giant marble run, and gumball machines of maker toys.   The Replicator 2 has 100 micron layer resolution, a larger print area for objects up to 410 cubic inches, can print multiple objects simultaneously, and even arrives fully assembled. And don’t forget, MakerBot’s PLA…

The Ant Internet

Before researchers developed the Internet, ants developed the Anternet, a surprisingly similar communications network.   Stanford University biology professor Deborah Gordon loves ants. She’s got pictures of them on her walls, sculptures of them on her desk, and about 8 000 live ants running around her lab. She’s been studying them for more than 20 years. Recently, when she came to understand how colonies of harvester ants regulate foraging, that is, how they decide how fast to send out ant to gather food, she thought that the ant algorithm could apply to other types of networks.  

Digits: Hands-Free 3-D

A new motion capture gadget from Microsoft Research provides all the control of a 3-D gaming glove. But Digits is a wrist worn sensor that leaves you barehanded and free to touch other objects. With an infrared camera, a MEMS motion sensing chip, and some software trickery it creates a 3-D model of your hand that responds to movements with fingertip precision.   The Digits prototype allows the wearer to answer a phone call with a thumbs up, change a television channel with a flick of a finger, play videos games without a controller, translate sign language into text—and maybe…

Digital Taste Project, from Adrian Cheok

Adrian Cheok, a professor at Keio University’s Graduate School of Media Design in Japan, is working on a “digital lollypop” that can electrically and thermally stimulates the tongue to produce basic flavors—bitter, sour, salty, sweet. He wants to design a system for the “multisensory Internet” in which a friend can send you a flavor over the Internet.  

Build a Coffee-Can Radar

Researchers at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory devised a radar system that any avid DIYer should have no trouble reproducing. This simple radar system provides a basis for courses being taught at MIT and elsewhere. It is capable not only of measuring velocities, but also of finding the range to targets. You can even make crude synthetic-aperture radar images with it.  

Tracking Internet Outages in Sandy’s Wake

A new network-monitoring system shows the hurricane’s path by animating downed internet connections.   For the past year, Aaron Schulman, Ramakrishna Padmanabhan, and advisor Neil Spring of the University of Maryland have been looking at the effects of bad weather on residential Internet connectivity, using a system they refer to as Thunderping. Their scheme uses the network utility Ping to try to connect with computers before, during, and after severe weather events. From the connections that drop out during severe weather events such as Hurricane Sandy and last year’s Hurricane Irene, they can judge where Internet connectivity is lost. Schulman…

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