Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Free Font - Ostrich

Font Squirrel is hosting this condensed, caps-only display typeface family, featuring light, regular and black weights, along with a weird 'inline-esque' bold, plus dashed and rounded versions.

The font's license appears to permit @font-face css embedding

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


New Scientist reports: [edited]

PossessedHand, being developed jointly by the University of Tokyo, Japan, and Sony Computer Science Laboratories, electrically stimulates the muscles in the forearm that move your fingers. A belt worn around that part of the subject's arm contains 28 electrode pads, which flex the joints between the three bones of each finger and the two bones of the thumb, and provide two wrist movements.

Users were able to sense the movement of their hands that this produced, even with their eyes closed. "The user's fingers are controlled without the user's mind," explains Emi Tamaki of the University of Tokyo, who led the research.

Devices that stimulate people's fingers have been made before, but they used electrodes embedded in the skin, which are invasive, or glove-like devices that make it hard to manipulate an object. Tamaki claims that her device is far more comfortable. "The electric stimulations are similar to low-frequency massage stimulations that are commonly used," she says.

Having successfully hijacked a hand, the researchers tried to teach it how to play the koto, a traditional Japanese stringed instrument. Koto players wear different picks on three fingers, but pluck the strings with all five fingertips, so each finger produces a distinctive sound. A koto score tells players which fingers should be moved and when, and from this Tamaki and her team were able to generate instructions telling their device how and when to stimulate the wearer's muscles.

PossessedHand does not generate enough force to pluck the koto strings, but it could help novice players by teaching them the correct finger movements. Tamaki and her team found that two beginner players made a total of four timing errors when using PossessedHand, compared with 13 when playing unassisted. After prompting from the device, the players also made one less mistake about which finger to use.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the players found it unsettling to have the device move their hand by itself. "I felt like my body was hacked," said one.

As well as helping would-be musicians, PossessedHand could be used to rehabilitate people who have suffered a stroke or other injury that impairs muscle control. Therapists already use electrical muscle stimulation to help these people, but existing non-invasive devices can only achieve crude movements such as contracting the entire arm.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Static Electricity Shock

Wired reports: [edited]

For many of us, static electricity is one of the earliest encounters we have with electromagnetism, and it’s a staple of high school physics. Typically, it’s explained as a product of electrons transferred in one direction between unlike substances, like glass and wool, or a balloon and a cotton T-shirt. Different substances have a tendency to pick up either positive or negative charges, we’re often told, and the process doesn’t transfer a lot of charge, but it’s enough to cause a balloon to stick to the ceiling, or to give someone a shock on a cold, dry day.

Nearly all of that is wrong, according to a paper published in today’s issue of Science. Charges can be transferred between identical materials, all materials behave roughly the same, the charges are the product of chemical reactions, and each surface becomes a patchwork of positive and negative charges, which reach levels a thousand times higher than the surfaces’ average charge.

One possible explanation is that a material’s surface, instead of being uniform from the static perspective, is a mosaic of charge-donating and charge-receiving areas.

Kelvin force microscopy scans show that the resulting surfaces are mosaics, with areas of positive and negative charges on the order of a micrometer or less across. This process doesn’t seem to occur by transferring electrons between neighbouring areas of different charge — instead of blurring into the surroundings, peaks and valleys of charge remain distinct, but slowly decrease in size.

The reason that this produces a relatively weak charge isn’t because these peaks and valleys are small; the charge difference between them is on the order of 1,000 times larger than the average charge of the whole material. It’s just that the total area of sites with positive and negative charges are roughly equal (the two are typically within a fraction of a percent of each other). The distribution appears to be completely random.

So, what causes these charges to build up? It’s not, apparently, the transfer of electrons between the surfaces. Detailed spectroscopy of one of the polymers (PDMS) suggests that chemical reactions may be involved, as many oxidized derivatives of the polymer were detected. In addition, there is evidence that some material is transferred from one surface to another. Using separate pieces of fluorine - and silicon-containing polymers allowed the authors to show that signals consistent with the presence of fluorine were detected in the silicon sample after contact.

image via adamentmeat

Friday, June 24, 2011

Weekend Reading

Stuff that I have found enjoyable/challenging/thought-provoking:

Carl King reveals 10 myths about introverts.

Weird Al Yankovic on how Twitter helped save his latest album.

The Guardian lists its top 100 non-fiction books.

Everything Is A Remix is a video on how music has evolved. If you like this, there is another one on movies, and a third on technological innovation.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


AllThingsD reports: [edited]

A Mountain View start-up is promising that its camera, due later this year, will bring the biggest change to photography since the transition from film to digital.

The breakthrough is a different type of sensor that captures what are known as light fields, basically all the light that is moving in all directions in the view of the camera. That offers several advantages over traditional photography, the most revolutionary of which is that photos no longer need to be focused before they are taken.

That means that capturing that perfect shot of your fast-moving pet or squirming child could soon get a whole lot easier. Instead of having to manually focus or wait for autofocus to kick in and hopefully centre on the right thing, pictures can be taken immediately and in rapid succession.

Once the picture is on a computer or phone, the focus can be adjusted to centre on any object in the image, also allowing for cool artsy shots where one shifts between a blurry foreground and sharp background and vice versa.

The technology also allows photos to be taken in very low-light conditions without a flash as well as for three-dimensional images to be captured with a single lens. To view photos in full 3D, users still need some sort of 3D display, such as a 3D-enabled phone, PC or television.

- - - - -

Brett's 2p'orth: If you have any interest in photography, it is worth visiting the site to read the complete article and check out some of the demo images. The video is dull, but informative.

There is another video review available here. (via kate)

thanks to Conrad for the link.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Nik Snapseed for iPad

Digital Photography Review have posted a Quick Review of Nik's photo editing App.

Edited conclusions:

If you're serious about photo editing, you'll appreciate the U Point technology, and the fine-grained control over key adjustment parameters. If, on the other hand, you only use your iPad to prepare snapshots for uploading to the web, you'll love the ease with which you can apply fun creative effects to your images, and the speed with which you can send them on their way, via the integrated Facebook and flickr uploaders.

On an iPad 2, Snapseed is extremely quick and very smooth in operation, too. The only action that takes longer than a moment is opening large image files to begin editing, but even this is achieved in a couple of seconds.

At £2.99, Snapseed is a steal, but there are a couple of things we'd like to see included in future updates. Like many photography applications, Snapseed is hamstrung slightly by the fact that you can't zoom into images to see the pixel-level effects of your adjustments. This isn't a problem most of the time, but when adding texture effects and grain filters, it does mean that you have almost no idea about how images will actually look close-up until they've been saved.

We'd also love to see some batch editing functionality added, but right now, it seems churlish to complain. In its current form Snapseed is a must-have photography app, and Nik should be congratulated for making its first iteration so effective, and so much fun to use.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sony NEX-C3

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

The NEX-C3 is the start of Sony's second generation of mirrorless cameras, following the introduction of the 14MP NEX-3 and NEX-5. If these first two models showed how committed Sony is to offering APS-C capabilities in a compact form factor, the point is underlined by the arrival of the still-smaller C3.

The NEX-C3, even more than its predecessors, underlines the company's desire to offer this blend of compact camera convenience with large sensor image quality. Despite its larger sensor, the C3 challenges the smallest Micro Four Thirds models in terms of size, with only its kit zoom limiting its compactness.

The big news, beyond the NEX-C3's reduced size, is the inclusion of a 16MP sensor. This isn't exactly the same sensor used to such great effect in the Sony A55 (amongst others), but a re-engineered version designed to offer improved power consumption, with the promise of lower image noise and improved temperature characteristics as a result.

Just as Panasonic has decided to shrink and simplify its G and GF-series cameras, Sony is clearly trying to attract customers who want DSLR quality but wouldn't consider lugging a big black lump of camera around, and who are more interested in taking good pictures than learning what f-numbers mean.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wii U

Register Hardware has released a roundup of rumours and info surrounding Nintendo's recently announced Wii successor. Edited excerpts follow:

"According to Nintendo President Satoru Iwata, while the console aims to claw back support from the core gaming community, it also has ambitions of capturing the attention of those who play games on tablets, smartphones and laptops."

"One analyst believes the Wii U packs 50 per cent more processing power than its current-gen counterparts. Crytek (creators of Crysis) confirmed its CryEngine is almost up and running on the Wii U."

"Activision also believes the Wii U's performance and online integration means the platform will be friendlier to core-games. Activision's Eric Hirshberg said: "They're committing to HD, greater processing power, digital infrastructure, connected universe at the back end... Those are all the things we need to make a state of the art experience for a lot of games."

- - - - -

For Nintendo's official info page, click here.

For a brief 'hands-on' with a demo version of the Wii U, click here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Twin-Rotor Hoverbike

Gear Patrol reports: [edited]

Framed around an 1,170cc 4-stroke BMW boxer engine that powers the twin rotors, the Hoverbike was the brainchild of Australian inventor, Chris Malloy. Malloy claims that the Hoverbike’s thrust to weight ratio should enable it to elevate to 10,000 feet and reach a speed of 173 mph (this begs the need for a good parachute and industrial strength body armour).

The rest of the Hoverbike is a Kevlar reinforced carbon fibre and foam core frame and Tasmanian oak propellers. All controls are handlebar mounted, including speed, pitch, turning, vertical and horizontal travel. Using most of his hard earned funds to build this atomic salad shooter, Mr. Malloy is looking for investors and fluid dynamics engineers to bring his dream to production.

Estimated price: $40,000

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Free Font - OSP DIN

A useful compressed 'industrial' sans serif. Licensed for @font-face css embedding. Available from Font Squirrel.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Adonit reports: [edited]

The Adonit folio with bluetooth keyboard is the perfect companion for enhancing productivity and expanding the proficiency of your iPad. The keyboard is a sleek aluminum body with scissor action keys.

Writer is for typing on the bus, your couch, on an airplane, all the places you need comfortable productivity. The keyboard glides along a magnetic strip allowing for unlimited screen angles.

Writer’s quick eject allows you to free the iPad in the blink of an eye. The LED battery indicator let’s you know that you are powered up or that your battery is running down and needs to be replaced.

Writer comes equipped with scratch resistant ultra soft rubber pads between your iPad and Writer's keyboard.

Available 'soon'.

Friday, June 10, 2011

HTC Flyer 7in Android tablet

Register Hardware have published a review of HTC's latest tablet.


"Very good but very expensive. Still, if you have the money you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t have the money wait for a few months until the 10in HTC Puccini tablet arrives – I’m betting the price of the Flyer will float gently earthwards then."

Suggested Price: £480 (16GB Wi-fi only), £599 (32GB Wi-Fi/3G)

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Kaiser Chiefs release 'Create Your Own Album' reports: [edited]

Create your own version of our album and make £1 for each one you sell.

1. Select 10 songs out of 20.

2. Design your cover.

3. Pay £7.50 and download

You’ll get your own web page to sell it from if you want to. Visit the album H.Q. to browse other people’s albums.

- - - - -

Brett's 2p'orth: A creative response to the 'people only buy individual tracks these days' problem.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Thunderstorm time-lapse

This time-lapse assembly is part of the Hector Thunderstorm Project being produced in northern Australia.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

iCloud, iOS 5 & OS X Lion

iCloud is coming... and, at first glance, it would appear to be a very good thing for anyone who runs more than one Apple product.

iOS 5 sees Apple's mobile OS integrating Twitter (meh...) and improving its notification system (hurrah!).

OS X Lion will only be available by download, for $30/£21, supports multi-touch gestures, autosave, auto-resume and an improved version of Mail.

To view a range of excellent explanatory videos, or watch the entire keynote speech click here.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Tristan for iOS

In 1990, a small software company called Littlewing released Tristan, a pinball simulator for the Apple Macintosh. My gaming inability is legendary, but I really enjoyed playing it, while some of my friends (one who is probably reading this blog) became completely obsessed, marking up some ludicrously high scores.

Littlewing have since released a number of equally enjoyable pinball simulators. The graphics are ok, but their real strength lies in the excellent physics of the pinball's motion and reaction to the flippers and bouncers.

And now Tristan is available for the iPhone/iPod touch, with a separate version for the iPad. They are both a lot of fun, fully playable on the smaller screens, but a lot more fun on the iPad's larger screen.

Both versions cost £1.19.

For more information, click here.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Weekend Reading, 03-06-11

Stuff that I have found enjoyable/challenging/thought-provoking:

The Last Word On Nothing on how different cultures perceive time.

Slate on the uniqueness of human skin.

Tech Radar provides 15 quick tips on how to improve your photography.

Malcolm Gladwell on the importance of making technology attractive, usable and affordable.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

BenQ W1200 HD DLP projector

For my money, the best way to watch a Blu-ray movie is via a projector. If you agree, but have been put off by the price, the good news is that you can now purchase a half-way decent HD model for under £1000.

Check out Register Hardware's review for more details.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Daymak Wireless Shadow eBike

Alternative Consumer reports: [edited]

The Shadow Ebike, which is marketed as the world’s first power-assisted wireless electric bike, features a Daymak Drive controller with wireless support. The controller talks directly to the throttle, brake lever and pedal assist.

Brake and throttle controls work just like a conventional ebike - press the lever and the bike responds – only with this bike it’s via wireless connection.

The bike also features a USB/110V Plug so the rim and battery can be charged directly from an external power source in 4 to 8 hours. Another neat feature, you can also power your phone, notebook, or other small electronics via the bike.

The bike will retail for $1,999.