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This week, the IFA 2013 consumer electronics trade fair in Berlin, Germany, hosted vendors from all over the gadget world, ready to unveil their latest goodies. We highlight a few here, as well as a couple of fantastic art installations, springy shoes and roach robots.
A visitor walks past a giant 3D HD presentation at the LG stand at the IFA 2013 consumer electronics show. Graphics in 3D and gigantic 4K televisions that have four times the resolution of HD proved that pictures can never be too clear.
Sony unveiled its new QX-series Cyber-shot cameras, which have a zoom lens, a sensor, an image processor, a memory card slot and control buttons, but no screen. That comes from your smartphone. Slip the camera over your phone and connect via an app and Wi-Fi and voila! Your smartphone now has an advanced imaging lens.
Xie lab, Harvard University
A new imaging technique developed by scientists from Harvard University and the University of Michigan distinguishes brain tumor cells from healthy tissue. In the image above, the method, called stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscopy, shows cancerous cells as blue and normal tissue as green.
Inspired by a cockroach, the Dash Robot is anything but repulsive. The simple robot, made of cardboard and plastic, is fast and durable -- able to run a mile at about four feet per second and survive a fall from 90 feet. Dash's creators are promoting it via a crowdfunding campaign, and there are still about 80 kits left for $65.
Innovations in athletic shoes are typically subtle. But there's no need to look closely at the Adidas Springblade to see what's new. Sixteen slanted plastic springs on the sole provide extra forward momentum. The shoe retails for $180.
Artist Dan Corson's Sonic Bloom installation at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle consists of 40-foot-tall, flower-shaped street lamps that contain motion sensors. When a visitor walks by, the flowers sense the motion and play a song.
LED light bulbs are still expensive, upwards of $35 each. But an Oregon-based startup called NliteN thinks they can bring down the cost by flattening out the bulb, which saves on manufacturing. NliteN's 60-watt equivalent (800 lumen) sells for $9.99. The disk shape disperses light and keeps the bulb cool.
Int. J. Modelling, Identification and Control
Researchers from Auburn University have devised a wearable backpack for dogs that allows a person to command the pooch remotely. The backpack comes equipped with a microprocessor, wireless radio and GPS receiver as well as a vibrating mechanism. A dog is trained to respond to commands that come in the form of vibrations and tones. Such a suit could be useful for finding missing persons, searching for disaster victims and quietly uncovering contraband.
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London resident Martin Lindsay recently parked his black Jaguar on a street near the 37-story "Walkie Talkie" building, which is under construction. The building's extremely reflective exterior concentrated a beam of sunlight so strong it warped panels on the car beyond repair.
This week at the IFA gadget show, Sony announced its Xperia Z1, a waterproof and dustproof smartphone shipping in black, purple and white. The phone will come with 16GB of internal storage and Sony's G Lens camera.
At the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin, visitors can experience this huge sculpture that twists, shifts and lights up in response to weather conditions outside. The shell-like Capacitor sculpture created by artist John Grade is connected to sensors located outside and its movement simulates an organism breathing.
Three-dimensional displays have made it to televisions and even handheld video game consoles, but there are limitations. One is that the illusion of three dimensions starts to break down if the viewer looks at the image from a range of different angles. Furthermore, 3-D displays can produce headaches and even nausea.
ZSpace, a California technology company, has designed a large display that preserves the 3-D illusion better than almost anything out there, because it tracks the viewer’s head. It still requires glasses, but the glasses have small reflective tabs on them that allow a computer to track the exact spot the user is looking at.
Ordinarily a 3-D display presents two images, each offset a tiny bit from the other, or with different polarizations. The images flicker in such a way that each eye sees a different image — that’s where the glasses come in, to help the eye focus on the image it’s “supposed” to.
The problem is head movement or standing away from the center of the image. When you move, the image projection is off because in most displays it only goes in one direction, straight out to the middle of the room if it’s a 3-D television.
The zSpace design uses the head-tracking software to adjust the images slightly. This maintains the illusion and prevents the nausea and headaches, which are caused by eyes straining to keep images focused. The tracking system also works with a stylus to generate an image of a laser-like beam that can work as a kind of pointer, to manipulate objects in the visual field.
David Chavez, chief technology officer of zSpace, told DNews he sees it as an aid to fields where looking at real objects is important, but sometimes expensive or problematic. One display, he said, was sold to a medical school — Touro Medical College — allowing aspiring surgeons to “handle” human organs and practice before they actually try their skills out on cadavers.
The displays aren’t cheap; they run into the thousands of dollars for a single unit, so it isn’t something that will come into the home quite yet. Chavez added that the other big market will be designers that want a clear idea of how new products look and function before they fabricate something and of course, gaming, which has a habit of picking up new display technologies.