Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lego, in your (Chrome) Browser

Popular Mechanics reports: [edited]

In a collaboration between Google Chrome and Lego, digital versions of the classic childhood toy are available online. Google invites new users to begin at the Build Academy, where web tutorials teach you how to construct your Lego creations.

A normal complement of 13 different bricks is satisfactory for most basic buildings, but an "Extras" tab includes ready-made doors, windows, and other Lego odds and ends for more enterprising souls. Once your piece de resistance is complete, you can share (via Google+) your creation with others.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stratasys multi-material colour 3D printer

BBC reports: [edited]

The world's first multi-material full-colour 3D printer has been launched by Stratasys, the owner of the MakerBot range of printers. It features "triple-jetting" technology that combines droplets of three base materials, reducing the need for separate print runs and painting.

By incorporating traditional 2D printer colour mixing, using cyan, magenta and yellow, the manufacturer says multi-material objects can be printed in hundreds of colours. While the base materials are rubber and plastic, they can be combined and treated to create end products of widely varying flexibility and rigidity, transparency and opacity, the company said.

Stratasys marketing manager Bruce Bradshaw told the BBC: "This will help industrial designers reduce the time it takes to bring prototypes to market by 50%."

Duncan Wood, publisher of specialist 3D printing magazine TCT, told the BBC: "This is groundbreaking stuff. Being able to produce single products incorporating materials of different rigidity and colour has been the holy grail of 3D printing to date.

It will cost about $330,000 (£200,000).

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ryno One-Wheeled Electric Motorcycle

Wired reports: [edited]

It takes a special kind of magic to make an electric one-wheeled motorcycle not terrifying to ride, and Ryno Motors has pulled it off. The microcycle, which has a single 25-inch motorcycle tire and reaches speeds up to 10 mph, uses a combination of gyroscope sensors and accelerometers to balance itself.

Rather than use a hand-throttle like a motorcycle, you juice the Ryno simply by leaning forward as you would on a Segway. Leaning forward on the handlebars forces the sensor-balanced wheel to adjust its position for balance, which propels you forward. Braking is as easy as leaning back, but there's also a hand brake if you'd rather slow down that way.

The Ryno is able to handle inclines up to a 20-percent grade, so it's largely San Francisco-friendly. It also takes about six hours to charge up fully using a 12-volt DC charger. That gives it a range of about 10 miles or an hour per charge at top speed. Real-world usage - stopping, starting, and going more slowly - will probably yield quite a bit more than that.

It's hard to describe what it feels like to ride the Ryno, but the main takeaway is it's much easier and safer than it seems. The vehicle balances itself without a hitch, and getting the hang of leaning forward and backward to accelerate and decelerate takes only a few seconds.

Indeed, The self-balancing skills of the Ryno are impressive to the point of being miraculous. With the vehicle turned on and no one seated on it, Hoffmann pushed down as hard as he could on the handlebars while standing in front of it. It didn't even budge on its single wheel as the gyro and motion sensors kicked in. Of course you can still tip it over from side to side fairly easily, but your legs are there for stabilisation.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Box reports: [edited]

With 50GB of free storage, Box makes it easy to store, manage and work with all your files and documents wherever you are - on the web, from your desktop and on your iPhone and iPad.

Box for iPhone and iPad helps you get work done on the go. It's fast, secure and simple to use, so you can be productive from anywhere. More than 20 million users and 200,000 companies use Box - including 97% of the Fortune 500.

With Box for iPhone and iPad, you can:

・Get all your files at your fingertips
・Always have the most up-to-date information about your business
・Use your iPhone and iPad to present in meetings
・Share important files
・Review projects and leave feedback on the go
・Stay connected with your team

Box for iPhone and iPad features:

・High-quality rendering of 100+ file types
・PDF, PowerPoint and Word viewers for reviewing and presenting
・Offline access to files and folders
・Real-time search of files and folders and within documents
・File-level encryption and security controls
・Photo and video import

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

iWatch Concept

Todd Ham reports: [edited]

I started with a few sketches then worked my way towards a rough 3D mesh of the device. I kept the band simple with a curved touchscreen display on the front. For physical controls I placed a single button on the left to act as the home button, and two more on the other side for volume controls.

For the lock screen I designed a simple black & white interface displaying the time, date, and button to activate Siri. From here the possible actions are: tap to use Siri, swipe up to unlock, or pull down to view notifications. Sound familiar?

The springboard has four app icons vertically stacked with a page controller on the right. Swiping up or down moves between pages of apps. Pressing the home button takes you back to the lockscreen.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Onewheel

Core 77 reports: [edited]

A self-balancing electric monowheel skateboard, the Onewheel seemingly replicates the feeling of riding around on a hoverboard (if not the form factor), and even a novice can purportedly pick up how to ride one in less than a minute; in addition to the self-balancing feature, riders can accelerate by leaning forward and slow down by leaning back, as with a Segway.

The 25-pound device will reach 12 mph, with a range of four to six miles. Charging the lithium battery takes from 20 minutes to two hours, depending on what type of charger you use.

Doerksen and his team have it up on Kickstarter, where it's already tripled its $100,000 goal.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Food Ingredients

James Kennedy has produced a range of posters showing the 'ingredients' of a range of 'natural' foods.

James writes:

'To make these graphics, I calculated the percentage composition of all the interesting ingredients and wrote an 'ingredients' label for each fruit using E-numbers where they exist. Anthocynanins, which are said to give blueberries their 'superfood' status, are also known as E163, for example.'

'As a Chemistry teacher, I want to erode the fear that many people have of 'chemicals', and demonstrate that nature evolves compounds, mechanisms and structures far more complicated and unpredictable than anything we can produce in the lab.'

Friday, January 17, 2014

Free Font - Fira Sans

Wikipedia reports: [edited]

Fira Sans (initially called Feura Sans)is a sans-serif typeface designed by Erik Spiekermann and Ralph du Carrois of Carrois Type Design for the Mozilla Foundation.

Fira Sans is available in four weights with corresponding italics: light, regular, medium, and bold. There is also a monospaced variant, Fira Mono, available in regular and bold.

Available from Font Squirrel

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Google Image Search Updated

Engadget reports: [edited]

Google Image Search has allowed users to filter results based on how they're licensed since 2009, but the option remained hidden under an advanced options menu where few users ever look. Now, a request by law professor and Creative Commons founding member Lawrence Lessig has changed that.

Bing added the option to filter by licensing rights last July with placement front and center, and Googler Matt Cutts tweeted that his company's search engine has a similar option, shown above. Perfect for bloggers in a hurry or anyone looking to whip up an image for a new meme, it can pick out images labeled for reuse, reuse with modification, or commercial variants of either.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Bioglow Starlight Avatar

inhabitat reports: [edited]

Missouri-based Bioglow has been working on light-producing plants for a number of years and finally has one that they can sell. Starlight Avatar™ is an auto luminescent plant that does not require UV light or chemical additives. The light producing plant was made by taking an ornamental Nicotiana alata plant and introducing the light-emitting pathway from marine bacteria into its chloroplast genome. The genetically modified plant glows a soft blue-green in the dark.

Bioglow hopes to improve their techniques and strengthen the light production capabilities. They foresee a time when the plants are used as decorative landscaping that could eliminate the need for night time lighting and decrease emissions from electricity use.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Caffeine aids long-term memory

the Hub reports: [edited]

Michael Yassa, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Johns Hopkins, and his team of scientists found that caffeine has a positive effect on our long-term memory. Their research, published by the journal Nature Neuroscience, shows that caffeine enhances certain memories at least up to 24 hours after it is consumed.

The Johns Hopkins researchers conducted a double-blind trial in which participants who did not regularly eat or drink caffeinated products received either a placebo or a 200-milligram caffeine tablet five minutes after studying a series of images. Salivary samples were taken from the participants before they took the tablets to measure their caffeine levels. Samples were taken again one, three, and 24 hours afterwards.

The next day, both groups were tested on their ability to recognise images from the previous day's study session. On the test, some of the visuals were the same as those from the day before, some were new additions, and some were similar but not the same.

More members of the caffeine group were able to correctly identify the new images as 'similar' to previously viewed images rather than erroneously citing them as the same.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Very fun gesture-based puzzle game.

£1.99, for iPhone or iPad, from the App Store.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Spotify brings free shuffle streaming to iOS apps

gigaom reports: [edited]

Spotify has released an update to its iOS apps, bringing free shuffle music streaming to mobile users without a monthly subscription. The app now lets you listen to playlists or a particular artist in shuffle mode on your iPhone or iPod touch, while the iPad version lets you play any song, any time, like the desktop app.

Unlike Pandora or iTunes Radio, Spotify’s iPhone/iPod touch app doesn’t shuffle all songs similar to a particular artist. Instead, you get access to all of the songs in that artist’s catalogue, which are played at random. You get up to six skips an hour, and there are ads, but I’ve been listening to Yo La Tengo on my iPhone for the past half hour and have only heard one.

The iPad app is a lot more similar to the experience you get from using Spotify’s desktop app or on the Web. You can pick any song or any album and listen to it on demand, albeit with ads.

Prior to this update, Spotify’s mobile apps were only available to users that paid for premium access. There are still benefits to subscribing. You can listen to whatever you want, whenever you want, without ads. And you can download music for offline listening. For the free mobile apps you always need to be connected. Still, this is a great app to download if you’re not into radio-style format on other apps.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS35 and ZS40

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

Panasonic has introduced the Lumix DMC-ZS40 travel zoom, also known as DMC-TZ60 in some markets. Equipped with Wi-Fi and NFC, it provides a 30x zoom range (24-720mm equiv), an 18.1 megapixel sensor, and a built-in electronic viewfinder. It features a control ring around the lens, Raw shooting and focus peaking.

Also introduced is a lower-cost model, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS35 (TZ55), with Wi-Fi connectivity (though no NFC). The ZS35 covers a 28-560mm equivalent 20x zoom range, uses a 16 megapixel sensor, and lacks a viewfinder.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Ion Audio Bluetooth Cassette Adapter

MacRumors reports: [edited]

Ion Audio has introduced a Bluetooth-enabled cassette tape adapter that allows older stereos to stream music wirelessly from mobile devices.

The device is rechargeable via USB and lasts up to six hours on a charge, turning on and off automatically when inserted and ejected from the cassette deck and somewhat supports hands-free calling by routing incoming call audio through the car's speakers - though a speakerphone will still be needed to talk.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A Concise Guide to Lightroom Develop Presets

Digital Photography School has published a helpful article with a good selection of free presets to download.

Monday, January 06, 2014

'Gecko' feet could help robots fix space stations

New Scientist reports: [edited]

It may look like a circuit board stuck to the ceiling – but this is actually a climbing robot. Stranger still, it is in a vacuum, testing its ability to use dry but sticky gecko-like feet to crawl around an orbiting spacecraft.

The idea is that one day astronauts won't have to risk their lives to fix things on a craft's exterior. Instead, they will command swarms of hull-crawling automatons to do the job.

The gecko robot, called Abigaille III, is the work of Michael Henrey and his colleagues at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada. To test Abigaille's space flight credentials, Henrey took it to the European Space Agency's labs in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, where it was put through its paces at the extreme temperatures and zero-pressure conditions of space.

Henrey's trick is to use foot pads based on a dry polymer adhesive covered in mushroom-like structures with a large surface area. A dry adhesive was chosen because wet ones would collect dust and release fumes that might damage spacecraft instruments.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, gravity means that climbing robots need to lift several times their own weight if they are to be any use. Abigaille's feet wouldn't get it very far if it had to carry a load, but robots with electrically heated sticky footpads are showing their mettle in these sorts of applications.

Image: Simon Fraser University School of Engineering Science/MENRVA

Friday, January 03, 2014

Barbed Wire Fences Were An Early Telephone Network

Gizmodo reports: [edited]

Before Ma Bell came to town, it was barbed wire that brought rural communities together. A Sears telephone hooked up to barbed wire — miles of which were already conveniently strung along fences — connected far-flung ranches in the recently settled American west. Thus an ingenious and unregulated telephone system sprung up a hundred years ago.

Since the system had no switchboard, every telephone along the fences would ring at the same time. Each house had its own distinctive ring — two short one long, for example. Of course, when things got lonely out there on the ranch, there was no guarantee of privacy.

Talk was free, and so people soon began to 'hang out' on the phone, just as they do today in online social networks. People would read the newspaper over the telephone, they'd have musical nights where someone would play their banjo, someone else would sing along, and others would listen.

The shared line could even serve as a rudimentary broadcasting system. On many fence-phone networks, a single, very long ring would signal a 'line call', an announcement of interest to everyone on the system. This might be a weather report, weekly livestock prices, word that the train would arrive late, or news of an emergency such as a prairie fire.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Self-cleaning dishes reports: [edited]

Swedish design studio Tomorrow Machine has produced dishes that clean themselves.

More accurately, the plate and bowl never get dirty at all. They are coated with a super-hydrophobic material like that found in nature on lotus leaves. The material repels water on the molecular scale, never letting anything actually stick to or completely touch the surface of the dishes.

To wash them, all you have to do is tip the crumbs or leftovers off – you don’t even have to wipe them. The dishes are tough enough that they won’t break when you drop them, and they are lighter than traditional ceramic plates.

The project was commissioned by the Swedish Foreign Industries Commission. Their goal was to use natural materials in the making of futuristic objects that will not only make our lives easier in the future, but reduce humans’ effect on the planet.