I’m not in the habit of posting all the latest cameras, cell phones, laptops, etc. But a new feature has started showing up in cameras this year: Blink detection. If the camera notices that someone blinked when the shot was taken, it will immediately follow up with another shot. Quite a few cameras have the feature now, Including the sony DSC-277 pictured above. The only problem I see with it is I can think of some people who would fill up a camera card on a single click:
These are some top notch geeks. They built a setup to compute and project the trajectories of pool shots directly onto their table. It doesn’t work terribly well, but I think it is mostly a problem of low end hardware and strange setup. Why didn’t they put the webcam by the projector, pointed at the mirror? By having it in the corner they make things immensely more difficult to compute.
I think once Surface goes mainstream, innovations like this will come in a flood.
Back to the cute robots:
This little drummer robot rolls about looking like a little crab, all the while tapping and tweetling out his own little theme music. Next time I’m out on the warpath, I’m taking a troop of these little guys as my fifers, to sir the troops and strike fear into my enemies. Well…maybe not fear, but something.
The little guy reminds me of a similarly impressive organic counterpart:
Instructables just posted an awesome DIY Cold Heat Soldering Iron project. If you haven’t heard of these irons, they use the heat caused by electrical resistance to heat the work directly, rather than heating the iron. I think I actually happen to have everything required for the project lying around the house, and unlike the original, there are no batteries to replace. It runs off of an old computer power supply.
I think the only thing I see that I would change for my first attempt is the conductor for the tip. I’d switch out the mechanical pencil lead for carpenter pencil lead. It is wide and flat, and much stronger. It would likely heat less at the copper connections and could be sharpened to near any tip shape. How to get the graphite out of the pencil? Throw it in the fireplace. They use the stuff in cooling rods for nuclear reactors, I hardly think a little fire will hurt it.
Or, if you are too lazy to build your own, get the original ColdHeat soldering iron here.
I never expected this blog to end up so heavy on the robots, but I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a mesmerizing machine. This little robot does one thing, and I find it astounding how few resources it needs to do it. It solves Rubik’s cubes.
Did you ever have that friend when you were a kid who would come over to your house and mix up your cube? They obviously were hopelessly incapable of ever solving it, but they messed it up anyway. Then, out of frustration at being outsmarted buy a mindless lump of plastic, they sought redemption by peeling off all the stickers and putting them back in the right order. The stickers wouldn’t stay of course; I think that glue from the 80’s was made of hooves and gum. If I ever get another cube, I’m painting it.
Now that the geeky kids of yesteryear are growing up and looking for new challenges, they are seeking extra geek cred by building robots to solve the cube. This one is by no means the fastest, but it is truly a pleasure to watch as it gets up close to squint at the cube, then kicks it over for a look at another side. After it has had a good look, it stops for a moment to ponder. Like a scene from Hero (one of the most awesome king-fu movies ever), the real masters fight the battle in their heads, rather than through trial and error. By the time it kicks back into motion to start twisting, it has already visualized the whole solution. There is something about how robots move. It lacks the grace of biology, but it has an eerie jerky precision, like a zombie lurching about in the endless pursuit of brains. The best part about this little guy is that you can make it yourself. It is made from mindstorm lego sets.
These tiny units project a virtual laser keyboard on your table. They are fully functional and even make those little clicky click sounds while you type (optional). It uses a couple of sensors to measure the shadows thrown by your fingers from the projected light in order to indicate their positions. There are several on the market now, including this one conveniently located on amazon. It is compatible with bluetooth and USB, most operating systems, mobile and otherwise, and runs on DC, battery, or USB.
One of the first things that occurred to me when I saw this is that someone needed to make one for DDR/Stepmania. Remove the need to store and stand on a giant mat. Apparently someone is at least partially on that trail (via Engadget), although the execution looks relatively weak at the moment.
Obviously we will be seeing a lot more of this kind of tech soon. I’m hoping in the near future laptops will come inside cellphones. Just drop it on the table and project a keyboard and screen. You could probably do that now with a pico projector, a good cellphone, and one of these.
You can purchase it at ThinkGeek Electronics.
If you have trouble waking up in the morning, French designer Stéphane Vigny has the clock for you! Imagine being deep in your peaceful slumber when this baby opens up and belts out a dish rattling:
The smaller speakers are also independently controllable in case you want to herald a lesser occasion.
While I really don’t think a window would be the most effective place to stick this thing, the Febot battery charging turbine is such an inspiringly simple and guilt free way to charge up batteries that I find little to complain about. It has the advantage of working in that rather large portion of the world with more wind than electricity, and unlike solar panels, it works at night.
This little robot made by a team of four MSU students creates a vacuum to stick itself to a window and systematically traverse it, cleaning as it goes. With a few revisions to make them lighter and more maneuverable, they could really have something here. I can picture a swarm of them tackling skyscrapers. They could get their power from solar panels on the walls, which they could also clean. If Spirit and Opportunity had a Winboni, they might still be running at full strength.
The enterprising individuals over at The Play Coalition (I’ll get you a link if one comes back into existence) have created a monster. This little palm now has legs, so that it can follow that sunbeam that moves across your living room floor each morning. In my house it would also need to learn to run away from my cat and go grab itself a glass of water when it gets thirsty. Unfortunately, by the time it gets that smart, I imagine I’d find it going through my fridge looking for beer and pizza. Click the image to see PlantBot in motion.