The future seems like it's right around the corner. From curved smartphones to lightweight "Iron Man" suits to solar-powered cars, humans continue to push the boundaries of technology. See what we've accomplished this week.
This week, as part of the Human Brain Project, IBM Blue Gene Q Supercomputer was started up to do the big job of developing new methods to deepen the scientific understanding of how the human brain operates.
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Samsung unveiled its first curved smartphone, the Galaxy Round, a 5.7-inch handset with a display that is slightly rounded on both sides. The phone will enter the South Korean market on October 10.
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The United States Army is calling on the tech industry to build a Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) that would provide soldiers with superhuman strength, night vision and the ability to walk through a barrage of bullets.
World Solar Challenge
Delft University's Nuon Solar Team won the Challenger class of Australia's World Solar Challenge, a race from Darwin to Adelaide that tests the mettle of solar-powered cars. It took the Nuna 7 a little over 33 hours to travel 3,021 km with an average speed of 91 km/h or 57 mph.
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A shape-shifting material being developed by researchers at MIT is lightweight, compressible and runs on an environmentally benign energy source. Its ability to change shape could lead to a wristband that changes from a bracelet to a smartphone when a call comes in.
The World Architecture Festival, held in Singapore this year, is considered the world's largest festival and live awards for the global architecture community. One winner was the Statoil Regional and International Offices located in Fornebu, Bærum, Norway, and designed by Oslo, Norway-based a-lab.
The SOL Dome, created by volunteers and London-based design studio Loop.pH for Michigan's "Fall In Art and Sol Festival 2013," is a solar-powered light display inspired by the structure of molecular bonds between carbon atoms. An onsite carbon dioxide sensor monitors the air and then sends signals to a computer that lights up the fiber optics in response. Its display is meant to mimic the way planet Earth reacts to carbon dioxide.
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The $100 bill -- the most commonly counterfeited banknote in the world -- has gotten a major tech facelift. It now has a 3-D blue strip and a holographic bell within an image of a copper inkwell, both of which change when tilted.
Walking Dead fan Anson Kuo used the show's Chop Shop app to turn a Hyundai car into a zombie killer. His concept, which sports knife blades, an automatic crossbow, razor-wired windows, three machine guns, a samurai sword, aluminum armor and a muffler silencer, was one of 82,500 submissions to a contest. It was turned into a real vehicle by Galpin Auto Sports and was unveiled on October 10 at the New York Comic-Con show.
Richard D. James / University of Minnesota
A team from the University of Minnesota’s Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics has created a shape-shifting metal alloy that can be heated and then cooled thousands of times and still return to its original state. The material could be used to convert heat into electricity.
Forty-one tech companies showed up at the DEMO Fall 2013 conference to introduce gadgets and apps that may or may not change your life (a Google Glass app that lets you buy things with Bitcoins? really?). A few of these demos stood out among the electronic esoterica on display at IDG Enterprise’s annual gathering in Santa Clara, Calif.
Skully Helmet: This Android-powered, Bluetooth-linked motorcycle headgear includes a tiny heads-up display, positioned so that the image appears in front of your right cheek, where you’d need to look to keep your eyes on the road. It can show driving directions, the weather and other basic interface elements — think of the kind of relevant-right-now data you’d want to see projected in Google Glass or a smart watch — as well as the view behind you, as captured by a 180-degree camera in the back.
This Redwood City, Calif., startup hopes to ship its P1 helmet in the first quarter of next year at a price comparable to high-end helmets, which sounds like high three figures or low four figures. It won one of five “DEMO God” awards handed out at the end of the conference.
Bounce Imaging Explorer: The idea here is to allow first responders to perform a quick and safe inspection of a dangerous room ahead by chucking this camera- and sensor-stuffed sphere into it. Its monochrome cameras take pictures every half second, which software on a phone or tablet composes into an interactive panorama; it can also detect the temperature and hazardous gases like carbon monoxide.
The Boston firm expects a version for police use to cost under $1,000 sometime next year. It also foresees a military product (not with explosives on board) as well as civilian uses (spelunking, perhaps?). I was amused by how it reminded me of an Imperial interrogation droid from Star Wars, but company executives assured me that any resemblance is coincidental.
RealClarity: This upcoming app – $29.99 for iOS first, Android early next year — uses your smartphone’s processing power to filter out background noise and pipe a less noisy audio stream into your headphones. Testing in a loud exhibit area, it did that — although the fact that most of the background noise was other people talking seemed to limit its effectiveness.
RealClarity also offers presets to improve watching TV and listening to music, but iOS’s limitations on any outside app’s access to the system mean it can’t work any magic on phone calls. Needham, Mass.-based SoundFest also plans to ship a Bluetooth headset optimized for use with its system.
EmoVu: Please write your own “In Soviet Russia, webcam watches you” joke for this one. Eyeris Technologies invites Web users to grant its site access to their computer’s camera so its software algorithms can gaze at their facial expressions as they watch video clips (for instance, an ad or a movie trailer), then judge their emotional reactions. The Mountain View, Calif., startup pitches this as focus-group testing at scale — though without the usual real-world bribe of the cheap pizza handed out to participants, what motivates people to let some other site stare at their faces through their webcam?
When I tested this, its “Disgust” meter spiked appropriately when I made a Mr. Yuk face. Then I tried to annoy myself by thinking of some horribly crufty editing software I once had to use, and “Anger” jumped–which set off a fit of giggling that, in turn, bumped up the “Joy” graph.
Credits: Rob Pegoraro/Discovery