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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…

The Electrowetting Display

Electrowetting displays are just as capable as the liquid crystal displays in tablets and notebooks, but they are three times more efficient. Johan Feenstra, who heads Samsung’s electronic display research center in the Netherlands, explains how they work.  

CES Unveiled 2013

New gadgets galore at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show press preview   Amidst the milling hordes at the first big event of the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, we spotted some products that immediately appealed to us. Some featured new technology, others clever design. Here’s a look at six of them from the show floor: let us know which one is your favorite in the comments below! 1. Company: 3M Touch Systems Product: Prototype 84-inch touch screen 2. Company: Synaptics Product: ClearPad integrated touch sensor and display 3. Company: Sculpteo Product: 3D-Printed iPhone cases 4. Company: Goal Zero Product: Yeti 150…

Robots at CES 2013:Tosy Dancing Speakers, Lego Mindstorms, Window Vacuum, Roboware Kimi

The unveiling of the new version of Lego’s Mindstorms kit wasn’t the only robot news at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. While educational and entertainment robots still dominate the offerings on the show floor, there were also robots meant to help with tasks such as window cleaning, reminding young students about homework, or helping autistic children develop better social skills.  

Gaming at CES 2013

A lot of exhibits at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas were about driving more safely, more efficient homes, or being more productive. But sheer entertainment is also a big seller, and none more so than video games. We took a look around the floor for some of the best games and game accessories.  

DIY: USB Spaceship Game Controller

Spacecraft have more degrees of freedom than typical cars or airplanes, making them complicated to pilot. A custom USB controller was created to make it easier to perform precise maneuvers in the spaceflight simulator Orbiter.   Unlike most spacecraft games, Orbiter tries for as much physical realism as possible, including the need for considerable finesse when docking a spaceship at the ISS’s air lock. Unfortunately, the keyboard controls are not particularly intuitive, and most joysticks and other game controllers are designed with airplanes, cars, or avatars in mind, not spacecraft. So I decided to build my own controller.  

Tour PlanetSolar

PlanetSolar is the first boat to travel around the world on sunlight alone. Christian Ochsenbein, the on-board electrical engineer during the 19-month journey, shows off the yacht’s power system.  

Back to Apple’s Future

The Knowledge Navigator sequence of this video was created in 1987 and presented at an educational computing trade show by then Apple CEO John Sculley. The introduction was appended later, in the 1990s.   Back when Apple made the original Macintosh, the company created videos predicting what computing might be like in the future. In hindsight, the results were both eerily prescient and embarrassingly risible. IEEE Spectrum editors Stephen Cass, Steven Cherry, and Jean Kumagai affectionately recap the highs and lows of Apple’s 1987 vision of a world with a futuristic “Knowledge Navigator” device—including talking tablets, life without cellphones, and…

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