• Credit Card Has Touchpad, Three Year Battery Life

    November 11 2008 / by John Heylin
    Category: Gadgets

    Visa Europe is working hard for your money, and in doing so they have come up with a credit card capable of switching around your security code everytime you enter your PIN on its touchpad. “An alpha-numeric display and keypad is built directly into the card. When making a transaction online, customers type their PIN into the card, which creates a one-time security code.” Visa is working with four major banks, including Bank of America in the UK, to develop this card. Videos of how it works can be found here and here.

    This is quite amazing. Having a touchpad on your credit card ensures that the code on the back of your card (that little number, usually three digits, on the back) could never be compromised without a thief knowing your PIN number. I wonder though if the numbers you press would look worn, making it easy for the thief to determine what you PIN is.

    Although it’s kind of unnerving to think that your credit card has a battery life, the fact that it can run for three years could help boost confidence. You could possibly even charge it at your local bank every year on a simple flat tray. Of course, someone hacking into it within a few days is possible but by then hopefully you’d have canceled it. All we need now is a credit card that can take your fingerprint.

    Check out more at ITPRO

    via Gizmodo

  • Portable Nuclear Reactor to Set Up Shop in Your Neighborhood

    November 11 2008 / by John Heylin
    Category: Energy

    If the 10-year timeline of building a nuclear reactor has got you worried about clean energy today, a smaller and simpler solution could be only a few years away. Hyperion Power Generation has a great website which professes the practicality and usefulness of their van-sized nuclear reactor.

    Given that the population of some areas are too low to warrant a full-sized reactor, Hyperion mobile reactors are more fitted for rough terrain and smaller communities. “Hyperion produces only 25 MWe — enough to provide electricity for about 20,000 average American sized homes or its industrial equivalent.” Reactors can also be teamed together for larger communities or areas with higher energy usage. This could be very useful to third world countries where populations are growing but the availability of power is incredibly limited.

    But is it dangerous?

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  • Miniature Electric Generator to Power Your Heart and Body Sensors

    November 11 2008 / by John Heylin
    Category: Technology

    If you’re worried how all that implantable technology you’ll have in your body is going to power itself, the answer may lie with Georgia Tech. “Georgia Tech researchers used zinc oxide wires that scratch against an electrode to generate a current, clearly showing potential for use within the constantly moving body.” The zinc wires rubbing had previously caused serious wear and tear in former experiments (not to mention the fact that zinc dissolves in water aka your body) so the team developed a more “robust” version of the device with added packaging film to protect the zinc wires.

    Although the size in the photo is quite large, they believe it will be easy to scale the wires down to the much smaller size of three to five microns in diameter and 300 microns in length (the dot at the end of this period is about 615 microns wide). The only thing they’re waiting for is for production to begin and possibly some hefty investments I’m sure.

    The development of body-powered energy devices has been on fire this last year. It seems that the future of devices are in the human body itself. Heat and movement can all be converted to energy to power all the little gadgets we get into our hands, from cellphones to body monitors. Having an implantable power generator makes the most sense in that batteries wouldn’t have to be replaced, and at least maintenance of such devices would be at a minimum.

    How far are we from implantable self-powered devices? Some would say we’re almost there and I’d have to agree. The next few years may see implementation, maybe two years before we start seeing it in the consumer world.

    Check out more on this device over at the Energy Roadmap

    via Medgadget

  • Hands-Free Photography Concept Not Very Hands-Free But Still Awesome

    November 10 2008 / by John Heylin
    Category: Gadgets

    We’ve thought about it over and over — Why can’t I just take a picture with my eyes? In this latest concept from Mac Funamizu, you can almost do just that.

    In this concept, you wear a pair of sunglasses capable of taking photos from the perspective of the user. It tracks the movement of your hands, allowing you to frame the picture, and snaps the photo with a signal from your left eye (being the shutter). Although information on the concept is limited, one assumes that the sunglasses would use the focus of the eye to determine which items the photo will focus on. Reminds me of the movie Strange Days.

    Although wildly fantastic, it’s still a product that is capable of existing in the near future. Hand-tracking technology is getting better seemingly every month while the amount of mega-pixels you can cram onto a pinhead is skyrocketing (Ericsson expects to have a cellphone capable of recording HD video by 2012 as well as taking 20 mega-pixel photos). But the one thing we’re learning more and more is that the future of technology isn’t going to be a bunch of specialized devices, but of a single device capable of doing the work of everything else.

    via CNET Asia

  • Man Recieves Titanium Femur Bone, Sadly Cannot Kick Through Walls

    November 10 2008 / by John Heylin
    Category: Gadgets

    An 81-year-old man had his femur bone replaced with a titanium alternative in a surgery that bypasses his need for an amputation.

    The surgery happened just outside of Chicago at Weiss Memorial Hospital on Gene Johnson, an elderly man whose femur bone had broken during surgery to repair his artificial hip. The efforts to mend his broken bone proved futile — despite 20 screws and two metal plates his leg gave way yet again. It was then they decided to replace the bone with a titanium one.

    Bone replacement surgery has been around for almost four decades though it is “more typically used in patients who suffer from rare bone cancers.” This surgery is unique due to its level of complexity during the surgery which alone took over five hours in arranging the muscles, tendons and veins around the replacement bone.

    With people living longer and longer, these kind of drastic actions in order to improve the life of the elderly will become more commonplace, especially as the Baby Boomer generation starts to hit their 60’s and 70’s. The ability to keep people mobile is out there, we just need to start experimenting more with the implementation of such technology. This way when all of us get past our golden age we can still enjoy a stroll around town.

    Image: The Kozy Shack (Flickr, CC-Attribution)

  • Unmanned Helicopter Can Dodge Obstacles on Ground, Rescue Your Ass

    November 10 2008 / by John Heylin
    Category: Technology

    A large problem with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles is that they cannot avoid objects such as power lines or bridges. It is for this reason UAVs are not allowed in civilian areas here in the US. That could change with new technology being developed at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. “Engineers at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, have modified a commercial civilian UAV helicopter made by Yamaha to be able to see obstacles it encounters.” The ability to dodge objects is crucial for UAVs expecting to fly low to the ground.

    The UAV can run off of maps pre-programmed into its system, or it can generate its own map by using a laser scanner built into it. This allows the prototype itself to fly up to 36kph at an altitude of 5 meters around objects in recent trials.

    What does this mean for robotics?

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  • Dean Kamen Unveils Stirling Engine Powered Hybrid Car, Stuns Us All

    November 10 2008 / by John Heylin
    Category: Environment

    Dean Kamen has jolted the world yet again with his latest contraption — A Stirling engine hybrid car.

    The Stirling engine, for those in the dark, is an engine which derives its power from an external heat source. The amazing thing about it is that the heat source can be just about anything, even your own body. Kamen’s car, dubbed “REVOLT,” can run on any conventional fuel, from biodiesel to natural gas.

    Despite the practicality of such an engine, development of the Stirling engine in the world has been trying at best. Weird to think that an engine, which runs on heat and was invented in 1816, could fall to the side all these years. But we’re starting to see the Stirling engine pop up more and more these days, especially in large solar arrays.

    So when are we going to see this in production?

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  • New Bionic Hand Gives Us Glimpses of Star Wars, Bionic Bodies

    November 07 2008 / by John Heylin
    Category: Gadgets

    Touch Bionics, a “leading developer of advanced upper-limb prosthetics” has just made Time’s list of Top 50 inventions of 2008 (coming it at #14).

    What’s so amazing about this invention?

    For starters, each finger is powered by its own motor. This allows the wearer to individually move their fingers for more accurate manipulation of objects. It’s made of a high-strength plastic resulting in a prosthetic that is lightweight as well as appealing to the eyes. Maintenance of the hand is also very simple. “The modular construction of the i-LIMB Hand means that each individually powered finger can be quickly removed by simply removing one screw. This means that a prosthetist can easily swap out fingers that require servicing and patients can return to their everyday lives after a short clinic visit.” This way you can still have use of the hand while part of it is getting repaired.

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  • "Prototype This!" Shows Us a Cool Way of Tracking Body Movement

    November 07 2008 / by John Heylin
    Category: Gadgets

    If you haven’t put Prototype This! onto your Tivo account yet, do it. In one of their latest episodes, some of the team try out tracking body movement using camera recognition of symbols instead of that silly looking Gollum suit we’re so familiar with.

    The amazing thing about this is not only is the technology and software needed very simple compared to a lot of motion capture tech today, but if programmed right it could track you by your clothing. And while currently you might need to wear a suit covered in patterns the computer is already programmed to follow (maybe a Tron Guy suit?), eventually it could detect places on our bodies and use them as markers. That mole on your arm? Plaid pajama bottoms? Earring? All will help identify your position and aid in tracking your movement.

    This could be a big deal for the gaming and cellphone industry.

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  • Ericsson Expects Cellphones With HD Video Capability by 2012

    November 07 2008 / by John Heylin
    Category: Gadgets

    Ericsson, one of the largest companies in Sweden, unveiled their plans for a revolutionary new cellphone capable of 20 Megapixel photos and true HD video recording capability.

    At the press conference, Ericsson representative Jonas Lundstedt said they see the cellphone of the future as more of a “mobile terminal” than just a cellphone. With the capability to replace objects in our lives with just one great device, Ericsson is following the way of some of the other major players in the cellphone industry by combining services and devices into one simple object.

    The day is coming where the cellphone could possibly no longer be called a cellphone, but a terminal like Lundstedt mentioned. When the cellphone can function as a phone, camera, video camera, map, credit card, etc, can we even call it a cellphone anymore? With AT&T recently approving the tethering of the iPhone to other devices such as televisions and other household appliances this forecast isn’t too far off. The all-in-one device may only be a few short years away. Maybe call it a Universal Remote?

    via TechOn!