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Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller speaks about the new iPhone 5C during an Apple product announcement at the Apple campus on Sept. 10, 2013.
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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.
Why do we care so much about Apple? Is it the neat little technological advances that sometimes take us by surprise? The i-devices sleek design? The "cool" factor generated by product placements in Hollywood films, or perhaps the firm's rebel geek image fostered by its late founder Steve Jobs?
All of above, plus a lot of good public relations.
That's according to experts and former Apple employees who are watching today as Apple unveils its latest new consumer products: the low-cost iPhone 5C, made primarily with colorful plastic parts and a higher-end iPhone 5S with fingerprint security technology, a faster processor and other improvements.
The Cupertino, Calif.-based firm hopes the two devices will reverse a slide in 2013 that saw its stock price fall nearly 30 percent in the past year, as well as criticism for not being able to rebound after Jobs' death in October 2011. In fact, the firm hasn’t introduced a new product since the iPad in 2010.
Even though today's announcement involved incremental improvements on existing devices, consumers still are curious about what's cooking at Apple, according to P.K. Kannan, chair of the department of marketing at the University of Maryland.
"They are the cutting edge of innovation and so there are always some expectations," Kannan told DNews.
In fact, Apple's less-than-spectacular iPhone 5 launch last year may have been a corporate 'time-out' to help them lower expectations for a while.
"They had a very forgettable year," Kannan said. "So the expectations are now tempered and they can beat expectations."
Since it launched the iPod music player in 2001, Apple has managed to develop a loyal following of technophiles and bloggers who chronicle the firm's every move. Apple's deliberate policy of corporate secrecy, punctuated by big media events (such as today's) and the accompanying online rumor mill in between launches has also boosted interest in every product since then.
Former Apple executive Steve Chazin says the company has also raised the bar when it comes to technological innovation that has an impact on everyday human behavior.
"Apple is your quintessential American success story," said Chazin, who was Jobs' senior director of marketing from 1997 to 2000. "There's a lot about the company and co-founder and the company can't get enough of. The company transformed the way we communicate, we play, we work -- more than any company in last 50 years."
Chazin says Apple has a hard road to keep up with its past. It reinvented music, PCs and the cell phone, but hasn’t had the same success with television.
"There's a lot more room for Apple to go, but once they show the way, it's easier for others," said Chazin, now marketing director at Salesforce.com. "It was the first to have an all-glass touch screen, but made it easy for competitors to copy. Now, it's about how big can the glass be."
Apple's products have also been beautiful to hold and look at, and these designs have kept it on the cutting edge, despite recent hiccups, according to Maryland's Kannan.
"All these things make them truly distinctive," he said. "They might have taken a beating of late from Samsung, but no other consumer company has been able to match Apple's aesthetic designs."