Whisper Secrets Through Your Fingers, Not Lips
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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.
The party game Telephone may never be the same again. Research scientists in Pittsburgh have created a special microphone that you can whisper into and then transmit that whisper directly to someone else’s ear through your fingertips.
This interactive art installation called Ishin-Den-Shin is based on the Japanese concept of unspoken understanding. The phrase translates into “what the mind thinks, the heart transmits.” It was first developed earlier this year by Yuri Suzuki, Olivier Bau and Ivan Poupyrev at Disney Research in Pittsburgh, and New Scientist reported that it recently received an honorary mention for interactive art at the Ars Electronica 2013 festival in Austria.
You might remember Poupyrev from his Botanicus Interacticus interface for houseplants. This time, he and his colleagues made a system with a unique microphone connected to a computer’s sound card that can record sounds and transmit them through touch. First you whisper into the microphone, which records the audio. Then the message is transformed into an inaudible signal that’s transmitted to the microphone-holder’s body in the form of a lower power version of the recorded sound. This produces an electrostatic field around the microphone holder’s skin.
As soon as that microphone-holding person touches someone else’s ear, the field creates a tiny vibration that can be heard. ”The inaudible signal can be transmitted from body to body, using any sort of physical contact,” the scientists explained online. So, creepily or sweetly, your finger could deliver a whispered phrase directly into someone else’s ear.
A chain of people can receive the original message as long as they are in physical contact with the first person who holds the microphone. While I’m not sure what Disney Research plans to do with Ishin-Den-Shin technology, it feels like a hipster-y version of the Telephone game. Only it’s not how garbled the message gets by the end but how many friends can come together to feel one whisper.
Photo: The Ishin-Den-Shin interactive art installation has a microphone that can record sounds and then transmit them through touch. Credit: Disney Research