HP and the Flexible Display Center at Arizona State University announced their first prototype of a flexible screen that is both easy to produce and affordable. Made almost entirely out of plastic, the displays hope to revolutionize the size of our electronics such as laptops, phones and televisions. The amazing thing about it is their prototype consumes 90% less material than traditional displays of the same screen size.
It's been difficult for flexible screens to break into the mass market due to their cost and complicated design, but with recent breakthroughs like this we can expect flexible displays start to show up in our everyday lives by next year. I mean, if they can build a plant that can crank out thousands of feet of thin film solar fairly quickly, it would make sense they could use the same type of production to mass-produce flexible displays.
Researchers at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories have succeeded in partially translating brain activity in humans into images. "While the team for now has managed to reproduce only simple images from the brain, they said the technology could eventually be used to figure out dreams and other secrets inside people's minds." They honed the computer to each tested individual by showing them over 400 different images and recording how their brain reacted. While successful tests have been run so far, the images used in the tests have been fairly simple ones such as the word "neuron."
Anyone who saw the movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has to remember how the main character was able to record her dreams for later viewing. And, true to fashion, the images were somewhat cluttered and fuzzy, an excellent representation of where the technology might be in 20 years (due to the erratic nature of dreams and the speed at which they occur, we may never be able to record a dream like we see it sleeping). And while it may lead to reading minds entirely, the "secrets" the team refers to, this technology is universally wanted by gadget-hounds everywhere. Controlling things with the mind will always be the end goal for all of these BCIs.
You've got a laptop, a cellphone, a digital camera and at least one other gadget in your arsenal. Sadly, only your phone gets internet which costs about $60 a month. You thought about getting mobile internet for your laptop but that was another $60 plus the cost of the USB drive. You're tired of hopping from coffee shop to coffee shop looking for internet on trips. What do you do?
Novatel, a company specializing in mobile information technology, will soon release MiFi, a mobile WiFi system run through cellular phone lines. MiFi acts as your own personal WiFi system which you can link to from any of your mobile gadgets. On a road trip you can carry it along for any of your passengers to latch onto. With a 4 hour life-span or 40 hours on standby, business trips might be just that more bearable.
A train station in Tokyo, Japan has put up a demo LED display which is powered by pedestrians stepping on a spring-board type power generator. "A person weighing 60kg (132 lbs) can generate 0.5W by stepping on the panel twice." The small panel you see above generates enough power for the LED screen to light up and display how much power has been generated so far. Although it will be removed by the end of the year, it still shows the potential power we can generate from the human body.
The greatest thing about this demo is it's sheer practicality in the real world. So many have been talking about solar panel highways or body-heat generating mobile devices, but not so much about kinetic energy. The energy-generating springboard has the additional benefit of being comfortable on the feet and back, something cement and pavement clearly lack. If these were installed in every pedestrian zone (heck, even on roads) it would feel like walking on a basketball court which are in themselves springy. If it proves to be more beneficial instead of developing a solar asphalt, it may just take over ground-level solar production.
A while back I reported on Microsoft's prototype called the SideSight, a cellphone which uses infrared sensors to determine your hand movement. Now it turns out Apple has applied for a patent on just that.
Sure, the image isn't too clear, but what you see is a possible infrared sensor array using LEDs or OLEDs as the sensor. You'll be able to rotate displays with just a wave of your hand if you bring it close to the screen. It doesn't stop there too. Apparently they're looking into the same technology for a possible OLED iPhone that will feature these sensors. Now THAT would be awesome.
If there's one thing that could creep you out this morning, it's that cyborg creatures (bugs, rats, birds and sharks) already exist. Researchers have been working heavily into cyborg creatures in order to reduce the cost of developing miniature robots. "The motivation is simple: why labour for years to build robots that imitate the ways animals move when you can just plug into living creatures and hijack systems already optimised by millions of years of evolution?" DARPA has heavily funded research into this kind of field, possibly hoping for a bug which can buzz around a room, spying on inhabitants.
Cyborg creatures feature heavily in science fiction movies, and not just for spying. Often cyborgs are touted as superior to robotic creatures since they combine real intelligence with robotic structure. It's weird to think of, but we may well be seeing rat-brain powered personal robots before robotic intelligence gets good enough to take over. Your dog can be taught to fetch the paper and all other sorts of tricks, why not more complicated tasks if given a better body? Fido, go do the laundry!
Check out the full article regarding cyborg developments at the NewScientist.
Movies sometimes have some pretty fantastical devices which we find hard to believe. There's the DeLorean from Back to the Future, the deneuralyzer from Men in Black and of course the holodeck from the Star Trek franchise. But some movies contain nifty gadgets and technology that seem simple enough to build or develop with current technologies. I mean, it's almost 2009 for christsake.
1. Safety Foam from Demolition Man
In the movie Demolition Man, Stallone's character John Spartan gets into a high-speed car accident during an electric car chase through the future streets of San Angeles. Instead of smashing to tiny bits, a foam fills the car and solidifies, saving his life and leaving him totally unscratched. It would seem easy enough to create such a foam (there might be problems with people inhaling it as it expands) so why the heck isn't it in cars yet?
2. Cold Fusion from The Saint
In The Saint, Simon Templar steals notes from a scientist which, when arranged properly, show how to make cold fusion work. While research into cold fusion technologies is progressing, it's kind of surprising there hasn't been a breakthrough yet in the field. You'd think someone could at least prove that it can or can't work by now.
The University of Aberdeen in the UK has declared that a fully-holographic television (like in Star Wars, yes) is entirely possible by 2018. They base this conclusion on research of their own on holograpic technologies as well as emerging 3D-like televisions that promise to go on sale in the next three to four years. "Whilst the ultimate 3D experience, using fully interactive floating holographic images - similar to that which is seen when Princess Leia appears in front of Luke Skywalker as a hologram in Star Wars - could be on the market by 2018." The team came to this conclusion after recieving $350,000 in funding to study timelines, possibilities and possible applications of a fully holographic television.
The question I find myself asking (other than why someone would still use "whilst" in a sentence) is why someone would even want a holographic television. In every view of the future we see, holograms aren't used for television, but for interactions and display. It will be interesting to see how the public will react to holographic televisions, and how long it will take for them to give way to holographic commmunication and fake girlfriends (Sixth Day). If anything, expect at least five months of Princess Leia parodies once this comes out.
John Callaham over at Big Download reports that Emotiv Systems, the company that was expected to release a brain-wave controller by the end of the year, is delaying its release due to issues of it actually working. The press release where it was unveiled at the Game Developers Conference may be a sign. "The public demo didn't go as planned; the device simply didn't work in front of the media who attended the press conference." And while the company later explained that the product didn't work properly due to "interference from wireless transmitters," it's probably safe to say that the product didn't work because it simply isn't working.
I guess we all should have seen it coming. A Brain Controlled Interface which is good enough to control video game characters seemed too good to be true for a 2008 release, and I guess it was. What Emotiv probably found out was that technology as specific as this, much like Google's Voice Recognition software, takes a lot of time to perfect. Google 411 has been working for years, using hundreds of thousands of voices to finally make a viable product. Emotiv needs more time to do just the same. The real question is how long will it take? 2009? Let's hope.
The Economist reports that a Humvee-mounted laser is already being used in Iraq to detonate roadside bombs which have plagued the military over the years. And yes, it’s named after the Greek God of lightening.
The Zeus laser (I am inclined to say cannon for all you Final Fantasy fans out there) possesses a range of 300 meters (just shy of 1,000 feet) and has been successfully used in Iraq. Although they only possess one Humvee equipped with the laser, plans are in effect to make more.
Why is the military laser-crazy?
Lasers are the dream weapon for the military. You can fire them from incredible distances with pinpoint accuracy and have the potential to be a game-changer in any battle. Advanced lasers could be used to detonate RPGs or missiles before they get to the target, they can punch through walls, and could potentially blow up ICBMs before they get too far off the ground (Reagan’s infamous Star Wars plan). There’s no ammunition concerns, just power, and despite being totally un-serviceable in the field, the lack of moving parts makes the possibility of breaking very slim.
"You can have children reading about Alice in Wonderland ... and Alice can pop out of the page, and have a tea party on the page."
Every amazing new technology needs to be wrapped in an equally elegant high-demand application if it is to diffuse past just the military on through the human masses. Often the first killer app is targeted at youth (ie, Facebook, Club Penguin, MMORPGs), then gradually spreads upward to older generations that require more convincing and immediately useful applications.
When it comes to augmented reality, it's possible that a company called Mixed Reality Lab (MXR), a spin-off owned by the National University of Singapore, is on the verge of creating such a cross-over app: Virtual 3D Pop-ups for Children's Books.
Coming on the heels of MXR's real-time augmented battlefield displays, the new Magic Books product aims to generate revenue from mommies and daddies who feeled compelled to get their kids interfacing with the most advanced new media.
IBM held its Third Annual "Five in Five" which looks at emerging trends as well as what IBM itself is developing in their own labs around the world. Here's the vid.
While previous predictions given by these "Five in Five" releases can be somewhat fanciful (like mind-reading cellphones for instance), this latest list has the refreshing feel of being very near and very possible.
Solar technology will be built into everything
IBM states that within five years we could be seeing thin-film solar technology built into everything around us. This includes sidewalks, driveways, paint, windows and even clothing. Their belief is that thin-film solar will get so cheap that it can be applied everywhere in our lives. It's ability to be flexible also makes it easy to wrap around our daily devices which could benefit from a little extra power boost. It's interesting to think that while some people are clamoring for white asphalt and roofing tiles to reflect the Suns energy and save on lighting, another faction will emerge that will want solar film instead. Of course the question remains: are you going to want to hook a battery up to your clothing?
Your health can be pre-determined
Mapping DNA keeps getting faster and cheaper as the years go along. It only makes sense that very soon people will begin to use that genetic information to look for hereditary traits that could impact your health. In finding out you have a high chance of becoming diabetic, you may try and change your diet to avoid or delay its effects. Basically, it's the movie GATTACA without being able to actually alter the DNA before birth. I wonder how you'll take the news when they tell you that the junk food you so love is literally killing your body and taking years off your life.