Oct 30, 2013

A Single Cup To Handle All Your Kitchen Measurements

You can finally replace that stack of incremental measuring spoons that never actually seem to to stay stacked with Joseph Joseph's new 2-in-1 measuring cup, which handles both large and small measurements—even at the same time. The cup's larger chamber can hold up to four cups of dry or liquid ingredients, while the smaller chamber in the corner lets you measure out as little as five milliliters.

You'll also notice the $20 measuring cup's unique square corners, which makes it easier to pour out ingredients exactly where you want them. There's also a soft silicone handle that's extra grippy, so four cups of flour don't accidentally end up on the floor. More here.

You Could Get a Ticket For Wearing Google Glass While Driving

Because, as Cecilia Abadie recently found out, you might end up getting a ticket. Pulled over by San Diego police, she got a ticket for wearing the smart glasses while at the wheel just days ago. She explains:
A cop just stopped me and gave me a ticket for wearing Google Glass while driving! The exact line says: Driving with Monitor visible to Driver (Google Glass).
Clearly, Californian police feel that the display on Glass is as distracting as looking at a phone. It's not obvious if that's really the case or not—but it'll be interesting to see what lawyers and judges make of it. What do you think? More here.

Oct 28, 2013

The Internet Archive Opens Its Historical Software Collection To All

Gamers of a certain age will no doubt scream Oh wow, I remember that! as they click through the Internet Archive's latest project.

The non-profit organization recently launched the Historical Software Collection, with the mission of making old programs accessible (including plenty of games!) that were originally released for platforms like Atari 2600, Apple II, and Commodore 64.

Software itself isn't new to the Archive, but it's spent the past couple of years making these programs playable in-browser. So whether it's E.T. on Atari 2600 from 1982 or VisiCalc on the Apple II from 1979, there's no need to download a heap of emulators to try them out.

Archiving video games can present special challenges, as David Gibson at the Library of Congress has explained so well. But the independent Internet Archive claims to have thelargest software archive in the world, and it should be interesting to see how the next few years work out for them.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges they'll face is copyright. Technically, all of these programs are still covered under copyright law. And I have no doubt that the myriad companies responsible for managing the rights to something like E.T. are figuring out if they should intervene. Hopefully, no one will try to pull these programs. More here.

Oct 27, 2013

A Detailed Description of Why Human Skin Is Amazing

As Minute Earth rightly points out, we could avoid a lot of flesh wounds by having thicker armored skin like a pangolin. But the energy needed to generate and maintain that armor wasn't evolutionarily worth it for us to expend because we put so much fuel into our enormous brains. We can think of ways to escape danger or make intelligent plans to avoid dangerous situations in the first place. And we do have scales, they're just not visible to the naked eye, but they protect us from tons of microbes. A lot is going on with our skin as the layers form, live out their life rising to the surface and then die. Watch this video and then go exfoliate.

Oct 26, 2013

7 Things You Do On the Internet That'd Be Creepy to Do in Real Life

You're a different person online compared to your real life. It's okay. You don't have to irrationally like cats just because you're obsessed with cat videos. You don't have to literally poke the people you poked on Facebook. You don't have to like or follow or tag or comment or stalk celebrities like you do on the Internet. Because if you did that in real life, you'd be a total creep. BuzzFeed Video imagined 7 things that'd be super creepy to do in real life, even though you do them on the Internet.

Oct 25, 2013

Dinosaurs Were Able to Grow So Huge Because of Their Squishy Joints

There's a reason that towering mammals the likes of King Kong are resigned to fiction. Our aching bones can only take so much weight before they start crumbling under the pressure. But if that's the case, then why were dinosaurs able to reach such phenomenal heights? According to a new study, the answer isn't so much about the bones themselves as it is the soft, squishy joints they lay between.

The scientists leading the new study published in PLOS ONE measured the ends of bones in both mammals and dinosaurs as well as their descendants to see how joint and bone shape changes as size increases.

As mammals grow, our bones become progressively rounder at the ends to be able to support the increase in weight while minimizing pressure as much as possible. Reptiles and birds, however, (as well as the dinosaurs that came before them) have bones that grow wider and flatter as more weight is added to the frame. So considering that these two very different shapes are both meant to sustain more weight, the joints and cartilage that connect them must also work differently.

For humans and other mammals, as the bones become rounder the connecting cartilage continues to stretch thin and tight across the bones surface. Because the soft, connective cartilage is close-fitting and maleable, our weight is able to distribute more evenly. The wider, flatter bones of reptiles, however, solve the problem by packing as many layers of the stuff as they can—which as it turns out, is a much more efficient method. According to Matthew Bonnan from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and one of the lead authors on the study:
More than just evenly distributing the pressure, the joint itself may be deforming a little — it’s actually squishier, increasing the force it can sustain.
Of course, these gelatinous joint fillings weren't the only thing letting dinos tower over the rest of the prehistoric world. The lighter, hollow bones favored by reptiles also meant that larger frames didn't require as much support as our own solid bricks for bones. This does, however, at least begin to explain why dinosaurs were able to reach such larger than (modern) life proportions.

Still, as pillowy and bouncy as their joints may be, everything has its limits. You know, like extinction-event comets. More here.

Oct 24, 2013

Can a Sponge Absorb Mercury?

A sponge is a sponge because its porous material is able to absorb liquid of any kind. But what about liquid metal? Can a sponge actually absorb the heavy quicksilver material known as mercury? Not at all. At best, a little bit of mercury goop gets caught on top of the sponge and slides away like its T-1000 shaping itself back together.

We've Finally Figured Out Why Kettles Whistle

This might shock you, but for over a century scientists have been pondering why kettles whistle—and completely failed to find an answer. That's all changed now, though, thanks totwo scientists from the University of Cambridge who have worked out how it happens.

The whistle in a kettle is created when steam passes through two plates, positioned close together, each with a hole in them. But scientists have been trying, and failing, for decades to understand exactly what it is about this process that makes the high-pitched sound.

Ross Henrywood and Anurag Agarwal used insights gained from analyzing noise creation in jet engines to try and answer the question. By analyzing the flow of steam which travels up the spout of the kettle, they were able to pinpoint what creates the whistle.

Their results, which are published in the academic journal The Physics Of Fluids, show that the sound is produced by small vortices—regions where the steam swirls—which at certain frequencies can produce noise. They explain:
As steam comes up the kettle’s spout, it meets a hole at the start of the whistle, which is much narrower than the spout itself. This contracts the flow of steam as it enters the whistle and creates a jet of steam passing through it. The steam jet is naturally unstable, like the jet of water from a garden hose that starts to break into droplets after it has travelled a certain distance. As a result, by the time it reaches the end of the whistle, the jet of steam is no longer a pure column, but slightly disturbed. These instabilities cannot escape perfectly from the whistle and as they hit the second whistle wall, they form a small pressure pulse. This pulse causes the steam to form vortices as it exits the whistle. These vortices produce sound waves, creating the comforting noise that heralds a forthcoming cup of tea.
Which is fascinating. But it could also prove useful, because the knowledge gained from the study could help other scientists and engineers find and stop other similar—but more annoying—noises. Henrywood explains:
The effect we have identified can actually happen in all sorts of situations - anything where the structure containing a flow of air is similar to that of a kettle whistle. Pipes inside a building are one classic example and similar effects are seen inside damaged vehicle exhaust systems. Once we know where the whistle is coming from, and what’s making it happen, we can potentially get rid of it.
Next one the list? High-speed hand-dryers. Look out, Dyson, the University of Cambridge is hot on your heels. More here.

This Runner's Jacket Inflates To Cool You Down

The folks over at Gear Junkie got a chance to visit the product development lab at North Face's new headquarters in Alameda, California, and one of the many new innovations they were shown was this wonderful runner's jacket that uses a clever ventilation system to cool you down.

Tugging on a pair of elastics on the updated Stormy Trail runner's jacket seals off the coat at the waist. So as the wearer runs, air entering the jacket through a series of vents can't escape out the bottom. Instead, it flows up the runner's back and escapes out another vent closer to the top of the jacket, taking heat with it and cooling the wearer in the process. It's as close as a jacket can get to air conditioning, and will be available next July for about $165. More here.

Dolphins Inspire a New Kind of Radar That Detects Hidden Electronics

Not only are they out there keeping fish populations under control and occasionally leading lost boaters to land, dolphins' unique hunting techniques have also recently inspired a new kind of radar that's able to pinpoint hidden electronics like bomb triggers and surveillance devices. Move over dogs, man's officially found its new best friend.

Developed by researchers at the University of Southampton in England who were intrigued at how dolphins were still able to pinpoint fish they were hunting even in the middle of distracting clouds of underwater bubbles, the TWIPR—or twin inverted pulse radar—borrows techniques from the ocean's smartest inhabitants.

Namely, a technique where two signal pulses are sent out instead of one. This approach allows dolphins to distinguish between fish and bubbles, but with the TWIPR technology it can be used to detect electronics. When the pair of positive and negative pulses hit something like a tree, a rock, or even metal, they cancel each other out and disappear. But when the pulses hit a device made with semiconductors, the negative pulse becomes positive, doubling the signal and making the electronics very easy to spot.

What's particularly awesome is that the new technology—which could easily find a bomb hidden in a dumpster full of trash—measures just two inches in size and can be built from electronics costing less than a dollar. So putting it into production and into the hands of those in danger shouldn't require much further development. More here.

Oct 22, 2013

Scientists Discover Gold Literally Growing on Trees in the Outback

Every parent's favorite line about how money doesn't grow on trees just became a little more irrelevant, thanks to a fascinating find down under. Researchers in Australia recently found gold—yes,real gold—in eucalyptus trees growing in the outback.

A team of unlikely prospectors recently ventured into the arid land of the Goldfields-Esperance region in Western Australia, hoping to learn more about what was underneath its soil. The area earned its name for being rich in gold deposits—that were, however, notoriously difficult to find. So the researchers looked in an unlikely place: The trees.

Eucalyptus trees in this region are known for their resiliency, and for roots that reach impossibly deep to find the groundwater needed to keep themselves alive. It just so turns out that the elusive gold deposits are down there, too.

Chasing a longstanding rumor that the trees' leaves get their gold luster from the deposits, the scientists analyzed the leaves of eucalyptus trees in the area—and sure enough, they found traces of gold. Apparently, the trees' roots grew ten stories deep into the soil and absorbed gold particles from nearby deposits. To confirm that these particles came from the soil under the roots, they grew eucalyptus trees in gold-laced potting soil in a greenhouse. And sure enough—they found gold in those leaves, too.

The idea that plants absorb minerals from the soil around them is hardly new, but this is an extraordinary case. "Gold is probably toxic to plants and is moved to its extremities (such as leaves) or in preferential zones within cells in order to reduce deleterious biochemical reaction," reads a study about the research published today in Nature Communications. The authors also point out that this is "the first evidence of particulate gold within natural specimens of living biological tissue." That's a hell of a first, even for you alchemy nerds out there.

Don't go thinking you can get rich by cutting down eucalyptus trees, though. Each tree contains such a small amount of gold—46 parts per billion, to be exact—that it would take hundreds to compile enough for a wedding ring. But the trees could be used to scout the location of underground gold deposits. And since approximately 30 percent of the world's gold reserves are thought to lie underground in the Goldfields-Esperance region, the search may be well worth the trouble. More here.

A Headphone Jack Laser Pointer That No One Will Be Able To Spot

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise; highlighting a character's crotch on-screen at the movies is hi-larious, and always will be. But getting caught with a laser pointer in your hand and tossed out of the theater isn't. So thankfully red lasers have been around for decades, and have been miniaturized to the point where they can hide inside your smartphone's headphone jack.

Designed strictly for safe work purposes like highlighting information during a presentation, the iPinsips power from your iPhone but shouldn't drain its battery unless left on for endless hours. Speaking of which, the laser is activated using a free accompanying app, and it even has a safety to ensure it can't be accidentally turned on when you don't need it. You just turn the laser 90 degrees when it's inserted in the headphone jack and it will remain inert until you turn it back.

At just over $40 it is considerably expensive given red laser pointers are almost as cheap as penny candy these days. But what you're mostly paying for here is a covert way to harass and annoy people. Note: please don't harass and annoy people with this. More here.

Oct 21, 2013

Scientists Just Took a Huge Step Towards Curing Baldness

Hair plugs, comb overs and toupĂ©es beware; a team of researchers from Columbia has developed a way to induce new human hair growth for the first time ever. It’s not just the fact that they can just grow hair that’s so exciting, though. It’s that they can grow yourhair.

The technique centers on the behavior of human dermal papilla cells, the ones that make up the base of hair follicles. While the idea of using dermal papilla cells to generate new hair growth has been around for about 40 years, scientists have had a hard time doing it since the cells simply revert back to basic skin cells when they’re put into a culture. Rodent papillae, however, don’t have that problem, because they clump together and make it easier for the cells to communicate with each other.

Taking a cue from the rodent example, the Columbia researchers figured out how to encourage the human papillae to aggregate in a culture. After harvesting samples from human donors, the researchers transplanted the cells between the dermis and epidermis of human skin and grafted them onto the backs of mice. After a few days, scientists found that the hair was growing like normal. Sure, the human hair was growing on the backs of mice, but they matched up with the donors perfectly.

A magical hair growth tonic is probably still at least a few years away, if it's coming at all. But at least we’re headed in the right direction. More here.

Oct 20, 2013

Use a Laser Pointer to Turn Your iPhone Into a Microscope

Oct 19, 2013

Would This Bike With Storage Inside the Front Wheel Even Be Rideable?

Weighing in at around 25 pounds, you're not going to find many cyclists adopting the Transport, but its creators claim that's about as heavy as your average road bike, so it's perfect for commuters.

They also point out that since the modified front tire is made from lightweight plastic, it weighs the same as a standard road bike tire too—except that doesn't take into account the weight of the extra crap you toss in there. Once a backpack filled with a laptop, clothing, and other daily accessories is stuffed inside, that front wheel is bound to feel quite a bit different, particularly when cornering. What do you think? More here.

Oct 18, 2013

This Thermal Wristband Tricks You Into Never Being Too Warm or Cold

We all know someone who can never seem to get comfy, no matter the temperature. They're always pulling off sweaters because they're too hot, or cranking up the heat because they're too cold. But soon, salvation for these folks could come in the form of a special wristband that uses a copper heatsink to fool your body into thinking it's just been warmed or cooled—when in reality, the ambient temperature hasn't changed.

The technology—developed by researchers at MIT and dubbed Wristify—relies on a phenomenon where rapid external temperature changes on a person's skin can actually affect how their whole body feels. So the wristband—powered by a lithium polymer battery for up to eight hours—delivers rapid but subtle thermal pulses that change at a rate of 0.4 degrees celsius every second.

Raising or lowering the temperature of those thermal pulses will actually make the wearer's entire body feel as if it's getting warmer or cooler, allowing them to get comfy without having to touch a thermostat or change their wardrobe. It would also allow a building to reduce its heating or cooling needs if everyone inside had a Wristify strapped to their arm, which might not seem so implausible if the technology was built into the many smartwatches on the horizon. More here.

Oct 17, 2013

You'll Barely Notice the World's Smallest USB 3.0 Flash Drive

When it comes to prolonging the life of your laptop, there's no easier upgrade than adding an ultra-compact USB flash drive to expand its storage capacity—particularly if it's got a small SSD on board. And a company called PKparis is now laying claim to the title of 'world's smallest USB 3.0 flash drive' with its new K’1 that more than looks the part.

Available in 32GB and 64GB capacities for $48 and $89 respectively, the aluminum drives offer read and write speeds up to 140 MB/s, and they even include a tiny LED activity light. You'll of course want to make sure your laptop is already equipped with USB 3.0 to take full advantage of the K'1's capabilities, and once it's plugged in you'll never have to worry about losing it—or even noticing it for that matter. More here.

Why Exercise When You Can Buy a $50 Fake-Muscle T-Shirt?

Fifty bucks might sound expensive for an undershirt, but not when it means you can cancel your gym membership, stop buying gallons of protein powder, and sell all of your home gym equipment. Because not only does the Funkybod t-shirt promise to camouflage manboobs, it also creates the illusion you've got a muscular toned physique, no matter how frail you might be in real life.

It's all thanks to a set of subtle plates—presumably made of a comfortable foam—that accentuate your shoulder, bicep, lat, pectoral, and shoulder muscles. Worn by itself the fake muscles are easy to spot, but when worn under another shirt no one will be able to tell you don't spend every morning at the gym. And the plates supposedly even feel like real muscle, so no one will be the wiser until you're forced to take your shirt off. Which means that if you spill on yourself, you'll be wearing that stained shirt all day until you get home. More here.

Oct 16, 2013

How a Lost Boy Used Google Earth to Find His Way Home After 25 Years

In the video, Brierly recounts how 1987, after a day of begging for money on the street, he boarded a train for home, but he never got there because he fell asleep and missed his stop. Instead, he ended up on the other end of the country. He was labeled lost, adopted and shipped off to Australia. But thanks to the Google, he found his way home—as if you needed another reason to love Google Maps.

I Have Seen the Future and It's a One-Handed Magnetic Zipper

Under Armour is making the bold claim that it's finally "fixed zippers." And while its innovative new Magzip feature probably isn't going to change the entire world, it's still a vast improvement to clothing technology that hasn't evolved in in almost 100 years. It's also voodoo magic.

If you've ever fumbled trying to connect the two loose ends of a zipper—and really, who hasn't?—you'll immediately see the value in Under Armour's new approach that uses a strong magnet and a re-engineered clasp to automatically guide the two ends of a zipper together, allowing you to do up a coat with just one hand.

The idea for the Magzip actually came from an engineer named Scott Peters, who originally designed it to allow those dealing with conditions that inhibit their fine motor control and coordination to more easily dress themselves. Perfecting the mechanism required about 25 different prototypes, but the final version was patented and eventually licensed by Under Armour for a new line of clothing and jackets destined for a fall 2014 release. More here.

Oct 15, 2013

These Rorschach Ink Tests Could Replace the Good Old CAPTCHA

The CAPTCHA is a wonderful thing, but it's not without its failings. And as hackers get better and better at cracking them, a team of CMU engineers are proposing an alternative: Inkblot tests.

It's called a GOTCHA (of course), and it stands for Generating panOptic Turing Tests to Tell Computers and Humans Apart. The test was developed by three CMU researchers named Jeremiah Blocki, Manuel Blum, and Anupam Datta, who wanted to capitalize on our natural predilection to visual pattern recognition. Their test is a variant of a HOSP, or a Human-Only Solvable Puzzle, which defend against offline dictionary attacks by requiring human interaction with each password. In other words, these puzzles defend against attacks where hackers will try millions of different passwords in an attempt to access your account.

Here's how GOTCHA would work: When a user signs up for a service—a new email account, let's say—they'll be shown a series if inkblot tests and asked to describe them in a few words. Then, when they come back a few days later to sign in, they're presented with the same inkblot tests plus their original answers. They simply have to match up the answers with the correct images. That way, it's tougher for a computer to replicate not only the uniquely human ability to see visual patterns, but also to replicate that ability in the same way twice.

According to the team's October 7 paper—creatively titled GOTCHA Password Hackers!—the CMU team tested their design using a small sample of 70 through Amazon's Mechanical Turk. And while some participants didn't match their answers up correctly, there was good evidence that most users could trust their memories, and it's likely that the test could be tailored to be more consistent. More here.

Oct 14, 2013

It's Raining Diamonds on Saturn and Jupiter

We're a little late to the party on this one, but it's just too fascinating to pass up. A team of planetary scientists recently claimed that the mix of methane, carbon and lightning in Saturn's atmosphere is causing diamonds to be forged in the planet's atmosphere. Like, a lot of diamonds.

"The bottom line is that 1,000 tons of diamonds a year are being created on Saturn," Dr. Kevin Baines of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory recently told the BBC. "People ask me, 'How can you really tell? Because there's no way you can go and observe it.' " Baines explained, "It all boils down to the chemistry. And we think we're pretty certain."

The chemistry is actually pretty simple. Saturn's atmosphere is mostly made up of hydrogen and methane, but when storms crop up, the lightning fries the methane, producing pure hydrogen and burnt carbon, a.k.a. soot. As the clouds of soot fall towards the planet, they clump together forming graphite, and as the pressure builds up closer to the planet's core, that graphite is compressed into pure diamond. So it's literally raining diamonds on Saturn. The scientists think the same thing might be happening on Jupiter.

Does this do us any good? Not right now. It's pretty hard to get to Saturn and Jupiter and to get down to where the diamonds are would be pretty tough since the pressure there is about 100,000 times what it is at sea level on Earth. And if we don't catch them fast enough, the diamonds eventually fall into the core and melt. Nobody wants a melted diamond necklace. More here.

Oct 12, 2013

Sleeping In Public Just Keeps Getting Easier

Like ostriches themselves, the Ostrich Pillow is enigmatic and generally fascinating. Who would use it? Is it appropriate for children? Is it a sex toy? Hard to say! But it looks downright comfortable for napping. The only issue is carrying it.

With that thing hanging out of your bag it's pretty obvious that you're getting read to rob a bank and then sleep it off. That's why Ostrich Light is lifting its head out of the sand.

Ostrich Light is a sort of fleece earband/VISOR combo by Studio Banana Things that you can wear around your neck and then move onto your face when it's time to pass out. Or you can keep it in a bag until you're ready to use it like a reasonable person. It looks soft and cushy, but also packable which is the whole point of this redesign. Ostrich Light raised more than $6,000 in its first day on Kickstarter and its goal is $40,000 (£25,000).More here.

Oct 11, 2013

This Bronze Candle Will Burn Forever and Never Melt Away

Given how important it's been to our development, mankind will always be drawn to open flames. But if you're tired of buying tea light candles in bulk for a little bit of accent lighting,Fabien Gerlier's Caviar might be better suited to adding accent lighting to your home. Made of sintered bronze, the lamp stays lit without ever burning away.

So what exactly is sintered bronze? Think of it kind of like a metallic styrofoam, but instead of being composed of thousands of tiny granules of foam, it's made of endless tiny specks of bronze. And since the material isn't solid, it allows gas from a fuel reservoir to seep through, and that's what's actually seen burning, not the lamp itself.

Want to buy one? That's unfortunate, because the Caviar lamp is sadly just a thesis project by Gerlier who's working towards getting his masters in product design. But while you can't buy one now, there's no reason to think the lamp couldn't one day go into production. More here.

Oct 10, 2013

Adding a Little Heat Could Give Us a 40 TB Hard Drive in a Few Years

When it comes to cramming as much data as possible on a platter, hard drive manufacturers will use every trick in the book to maximize capacity. Including turning up the heat as TDK plans to do with a new technique that could deliver 40 terabyte hard drives by 2020.

In layman's terms, it's actually easier to induce and reverse a magnetic field—which is how data is written and read in a hard drive—as the temperature increases. So TDK has developed a laser system to temporarily heat the area where data is being written, which in turn allows them to squeeze more bits onto a platter.

The breakthrough that made this new approach possible was the development of a laser, which TDK refers to as a near-field light generator, that creates a beam that's just tens of nanometers wide—any larger and you risk erasing data around the area where it's being written. And for comparison, that beam's about 1/10 as wide as the lasers used to read a Blu-ray disk—so we're talking seriously tiny.

The technology could very well be the next big leap needed to push hard drive capacities to the next level, and TDK is confident it could be implemented in commercial products as early as late 2015. More here.

Oct 9, 2013

This Dongle Lets You Use Your Laptop's Keyboard With Your Phone

There are almost as many wireless Bluetooth keyboards on the market as there are Bluetooth speakers. But why spend money on yet another keyboard for your mobile devices when there's probably already a perfectly good one on your laptop? With this Bluetooth USB transmitter dongle from Buffalo, the keyboards you already have can also work on your smartphone or tablet.

Using a small application that runs under OS X and Windows, you can choose to have your computer's keyboard work with your PC, or re-route every keystroke to a mobile device connected over Bluetooth instead. It's that easy, and for $43 it means you don't have to travel with a separate keyboard. And as an added bonus, your laptop's tilting display makes for a perfect smartphone stand when you're pounding out longer messages.

Of course, why anyone would actually need to type on their smartphone or tablet while their laptop is out and powered up is another question, so perhaps this is a solution still looking for a problem to solve—but it's still a neat trick. More here.

The Only Acceptable Way To Shovel Food Into Your Mouth

Your parents probably weren't too keen when you were cramming food in your mouth at the dinner table like a feral child. But you're all grown up now; you can eat however you want. And if that includes the use of a spoon that looks like the heavy-duty scoop you'll find on a construction site backhoe, so be it.

The only problem with the $10 Dinner Digger is that you might have a hard time cramming it into your mouth. But you lived off Doritos and Fanta through four years of college, as far as dining challenges go, this is a tiny speed bump—not a brick wall. With the right angling you can simply dump a massive scoop of corn flakes right into your gaping maw. More here.

Oct 8, 2013

Disney Lets You Feel Textures On a Touchscreen By Zapping Your Fingers

In an attempt to give touchscreens another level of interactivity, researchers at Disney have come up with a remarkable way to generate tactile feedback as fingers slide across a smooth glass display. And all without deforming or changing the shape of the display in the process. Imagine a touchscreen keyboard where you can physically feel every key and you'll realize the potential of this research.

So how is such sorcery even possible? The researchers realized that the sensation of feeling a bump on a surface largely came from the skin on a fingertip being pulled and stretched as it moved across the raised area. And it turns out that this same sensation can be artificially created on a perfectly flat surface using electrovibration to generate electrostatic forces that create friction against a moving finger.

The other half of this breakthrough is a custom algorithm developed by Disney's research team that generates these frictional forces on the fly, based on what's being displayed on screen. So a stack of DVD cases would feel like a series of bumps, where as a ball would feel more like a large gradually curved surface. The technique is basically fooling the brain into thinking its experiencing something it really isn't, but the results are apparently remarkably convincing.

And the applications for this technology go well past just a cute interactive picture book that kids can also touch. This could make typing or playing joystick-based games on a phone or tablet actually enjoyable, and it would most definitely revolutionize how those with visual impairments use mobile devices. More here.

This 3D-Printed Web of Plastic Caps Turns Water Bottles Into a Vase

If your recycling bin overfloweth with empty plastic water bottles and you're just too lazy to take them to the curb, why not turn them from an eyesore into a lovely centerpiece with this 3D-printed web of bottlecaps? All you need to do is scrounge up twelve similarly sized bottles and you've got yourself a one-of-a-kind vase that can hold an entire bouquet of flowers.

Available in black or green, the Screw You Vase does require you to add flowers and water for your centerpiece to take shape, but that's it. Well, flowers, water, and $175 since after all these are 3D printed which is a time consuming process. More here.

Oct 7, 2013

Keep Your Desk Clutter-Free With These Clever Magnetic Doodads

Both holders are handcrafted from maple and walnut wood, and can be applied using the accompanying adhesive-backed washers. That way, the holders will lie flush with whatever surface you stick 'em on. While you could stick any metal pen to the holder, DropCatch does provide you with a Zebra-designed pen and pencil, which is a nice little touch.

Of course, neither of these things are really necessary—a headphone holder actually seems like a little more trouble than its worth. But they sure are pretty. You can pick up the headphone holder and pen holder for $20 and $35, respectively. More here.

Flexible Displays Don't Mean Flexible Phones

LG unveiled the "world's first flexible OLED panel for smartphones" on Monday morningand bragged about how products with "enhanced performance and differentiated designs" would follow next year. A fully flexible smartphone is probably not going to be among those exciting new things, however.

Flexible displays are new and exciting, and there's no reason to trash talk them. But the arrival of flexible displays does not equal the arrival of flexible devices. In fact, there are still some pretty legitimate hurdles to clear before such a thing would be possible. The guts of a smartphone aren't exactly designed to be twisted, bent or rolled up, as some might like. The battery, in particular, is not an easy part to make flexible. CNET's Jessica Delcourt listed a few reasons why flexible phones were a long ways off earlier this year and also highlighted other challenges of flexible electronics like the extent to which they should be flexible and the inevitably prohibitive price. That's just inevitable for now, though. They'll get cheaper.

None of this means that LG's breakthrough isn't impressive or important. The appeal of a flexible display for the time being is to build curved phones which most people expect LG to showcase in a few months if Samsung doesn't beat them to the punch. The new display does look pretty awesome in the meantime. It's built on plastic substrates instead of glass which makes the flexibility issue a little less of an issue and is so thin—0.44 millimeters thin—that it rivals even the non-bendable displays currently on the market. LG also brags that it's the lightest display in the world, weighing in at a mere 7.2 grams for a six-inch display. And since it bends, it won't shatter and break as easily as a glass display, though it might be prone to scratches. More here.

Oct 6, 2013

This Leaked Manual Lists Literally All the Nexus 5's Specs

Nexus nerds, we may have just hit the jackpot. Android Police just got its hands on what appears to be a leaked service manual for the as-yet-unreleased Nexus 5. If this is real, we now know everything about the Nexus 5. Every. Thing. OK, except price.

The document—which came to Android Police's attention via anonymous tipster—is some 281 pages long, but fortunately Android Police has already dug out the really juicy bits:

  • 4.95" 1080p display
  • 32GB internal storage
  • 2GB RAM
  • Snapdragon 800 at 2.3GHz
  • 8MP OIS rear camera, 1.3MP front camera
  • 2300mAh battery
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Proximity/Ambient Light, Pressure
  • Micro SIM slot
  • Notification light
  • Wireless charging (duh)
  • NFC (duh)
Now of course, as with any leak it's important to take this with a grain of salt. It could all be fake. But god damn look at that thing! There is so much data here. It's seems virtually impossible that this is bogus. If it's a fake it's an ABSURDLY detailed one.

Of course there are still other possibilities, like LG keeping false manuals on-hand for leaking, or Google/LG purposefully leaking a fake manual as some sort of cruel prank. But so far we've got no good reason to suspect this isn't accurate despite its status as a "draft."

There was one little discrepancy Android Police found, which is that the Bluetooth is listed as 3.0, when it'd be absurd for it to be anything other than Bluetooth Low Energy (i.e. 4.0). So that's either a bummer or a mistake.

Only time will tell, but in the meantime this is prooobably a pretty good guess at what we'll be seeing soon. More here.

Oct 4, 2013

Microsoft Asked HTC to Put Windows Phone in HTC Android Phones

According to Bloomberg, Microsoft has asked HTC to put Windows Phone in more HTC phones. Specifically, HTC Android phones. The report says that the head of Microsoft's operating systems unit Terry Myerson asked HTC last month to "load Windows Phone as a second option on [Android] handsets."

Apparently, Microsoft has discussed either cutting or even removing the licensing fee that comes with Windows Phone to make it a more attractive option for HTC. It smells like desperation and well, it sort of is. But Microsoft needs to shake up something in order to get Windows Phone in more hands. The talks with HTC are still in its early stages so no one is sure what the deal will end up looking like. Bloomberg says:
The technical details have yet to be ironed out. It wasn’t clear whether an HTC phone would run Windows and Android at the same time, or let users choose a default.
Seeing Windows Phone and Android on the same phone at the same time would just be crazy. Seeing a phone like the HTC One run Windows Phone would be quite awesome. HTC has made Windows Phones before (like the 8X) but it's clear most of its efforts have been dedicated toward Android phones. More here.

"I'm the Actor Who Provided the Voice for Siri"

Siri has provided iPhone users around the planet with everything from weather forecasts to restaurant reviews, whilst fending off dumb-ass questions along the way. But if you ever wondered who whispered all those sweet nothings, here's your answer.

This woman claims to have voiced the original version of Siri, which appeared on the iPhone 4S back in October 2011. Her name is Susan Bennett, and she lives in suburban Atlanta. While she won't reveal her age, she admits she fell into voice acting "by accident" in the 70s.

The arrival of a new Siri voice in iOS 7 means that Bennett is able to step forward and reveal herself to the world. And, if you're skeptical that she's the real deal—which you perhaps should be—co-workers and audio-forensics experts say they're "100 percent" confident it's the case, reports CNN.

In the video embedded below, Bennett talks about the gig, what it entailed, and how she was forced to keep the fact a secret. Until now. More here.

Oct 3, 2013

Your Instagram Feed Is About to Get Ads

Instagram's been planning this for a while, but now your Insta-feed is officially no longer just yours. Over the next few months, you'll start seeing photos and videos from #bold #brands all up in your stream of sepia-toned pics.

In its announcement, Instagram claims to want to make the ads "feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy." Which is probably true. With the speed most people scroll through their feed, it's doubtful they'll really notice that another vintage shot of a sunset was actually posted by Clorox. More here.

Oct 2, 2013

This SD Card Is Hiding a Mifi Inside

The last thing you want to do after buying yourself a sleek, ultra-slim laptop is muck up its lovely form factor with an ungainly mobile WiFi hotspot hanging off a USB port. So taking inspiration from the Eye-Fi, Huawei has cooked up its own SD card that's gutted to make room for a nano SIM slot and a HSPA+ 3G radio to give your laptop mobile internet wherever you roam.

You'll obviously lose the functionality of your laptop's built-in SD slot as long as you want to stay connected, but occasionally hooking up your camera over USB to offload photos is a small price to pay for a MiFi-like device that's almost impossible to lose. More here.

Oct 1, 2013

KFC Spent Two Years Making a Take-Out Container That Fits Cupholders

In an effort to bolster its standing amongst the fast food giants, KFC is introducing what is the easily one of the greatest innovations in take-out containers since the pizza box. The fried chicken chain's new snack-size Go Cups are specifically designed—after two years of development—to easily sit in your vehicle's cup holders, letting you dine without having to pull over and stop.

Billed as mini value meals, the Go Cups will sell for just $2.49 apiece and come in five different varieties that include varying mixes of chicken wings, chicken fingers, and chicken sandwiches with potato wedges on the side across the board. It's a little unfortunate to see that KFC isn't also including little shot glasses of its neon green coleslaw or gravy, but if cups of fried chicken can become a reality, who's to say what the future does or doesn't hold? More here.