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Around The Home

The Vocal Smoke Alarm

October 9, 2006 The SignalONE Safety vocal smoke alarm is the only smoke alarm on the market that allows the appropriate caregiver to record a personalized "wake up and escape" message for their child. We wouldn’t have picked that this was such an important feature off the bat, but apparently there’s a growing body of evidence showing that children do not awaken reliably to the tones found in conventional smoke alarms and the key aspect of the vocal smoke alarm is the use of a familiar voice to awaken a child by name and urge the child to escape a burning home safely. A new study, released last week by the American Academy of Pediatrics, showed that 96 percent of children woke up to the recorded sound of their mothers voice in a median time of 20 seconds, compared to only 58 percent who woke up to conventional smoke alarm tones. We’ve seen a few good ideas in smoke alarms over the years, such as the wireless smoke alarm and the ingenious snap alarm – interestingly, none of their compelling features are mutually exclusive.  Read More

The maintenance-free indoor waterwall

October 5, 2006 There’s something about running water that has a calming effect, though having a water feature inside your home or office can be problematic for obvious reasons. Creating your ideal environment for living and integrating a water feature just got much easier because Rock'N Crab Aquatics (RnC) has released the AQUAframe, the world's first maintenance-free waterwall. Unlike traditional waterwalls, the AQUAframe eliminates the need for service, damage from potential splashing and the requirement for complex filtration to control water health risks making it ideal for hospitals, restaurants, museums and home installation.  Read More

Turn a bedroom into an office in 60 seconds

September 26, 2006 With more of the workforce working from home every day, there’s now another room required in a lot of homes – an office. As houses and apartments don’t just grow another room when you want it, using rooms for multiple purposes is becoming big business and if you’re in the market for a few ideas on turning an office or living room into a bedroom inside 60 seconds, check this out. Clei UK specialises in designing for compact living and though our prize for the most ingenious mechanism they’ve created goes to this sofa (centre pics on main photo) which transforms into a bunk bed with integrated supporting ladder and protection guard, the company has two desks (here and here) which transform into beds, and an entire range of thought-provoking solutions for getting twice as much usage from any room. The company is currently seeking retailers in Scotland and Ireland, and international distributors. Our image gallery is chock full of great ideas and implementations.  Read More

How far below sea level will your home be if …

September 26, 2006 Last week we reported on the rapid and dramatic melting of the arctic icecap, and joked that the upside was perhaps that the property you bought with ocean views might soon become beachfront. Now some people might think it’s a good thing to plan for rising sea levels given that people have long been predicting that global warming will result in thermal expansion of the ocean and melting glaciers and ice sheets. In 1995 a report from the International Panel on Climate Change estimated that the sea will rise 50 centimeters (20 inches) with lowest range at 15 centimeters (6 inches) and high range at 95 centimeters (37 inches) by 2100, and NASA's take is supported with lots of evidence the warming is accelerating (temperature trends, sea level trends ) might come at us in a rush. If you go here, you can dial in the rise in water levels and see which properties will be waterfront if that occurs.  Read More

Magnetic tiles enable the spontaneous room makeover

September 22, 2006 “We change our clothing, handbags and shoes with the season, why not our tile?” posits Nancy Epstein, CEO of Artistic Tile, and head of new product development. “Rather than old-fashioned summer slipcovers, why not change the look of the entire room by switching the floor or wall from the warmth of naturally fur-covered cowhide tile to a smooth Natura leather tile for the warmer months. Or you can simply add a new look by applying a border of saddle stitched tile, or changing the configuration of the accent tile from a border to an inset. It’s not so different from changing your outfit, and takes very little time to achieve,” she adds. Unfortunately, the mix and match Pampa Leather tile collection is offered in six styles including the black and white cowhide shown but there’s no facility for some of the other collections on offer just yet. But it’s a great idea. Designed by Epstein, the tile adheres by means of a clever system of magnets, requires no mortar, adhesives or grout and is an easy care alternative to carpet. A layer of galvanized sheet metal between the substrate and the tile means tiles may be changed whenever the mood strikes.  Read More

The Fraunhofer Multimedia Dome

September 6, 2006 Making its first public appearance at the IFA international consumer electronics fair in Berlin, the Multimedia Dome is the first digital dome theatre to feature natural spatial sound: it envelops visitors in fascinating universe of video pictures and sound. The Multimedia Dome was developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Architecture and Software Technology FIRST and the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT, the inventors of the MP3 format which has taken over the world in the last decade.  Read More

Panasonic’s 160GB audio player dock

September 4, 2006 Japanese giant Panasonic (AKA Matsushita) has come up with yet another variation on the theme of seamlessly connecting the home stereo system with the portable audio player, specifically, it’s own D-snap. The SX850D-dock minicomponent audio system combines an SD card slot, 160GB hard drive, and a CD drive, so it’s possible to copy audio CDs to SDHC cards, record them direct to the hard drive, or connect it to your home network and load files from your PC. As it contains an on-board Gracenote database with auto recognition and track, artist and album info, users will never have to enter album information manually. Available later this week in Japan, the 160 GB SX850D-dock will cost JPY80,000 (US$690), while a lesser 80GB SX450 model will sell for JPY39,000 (US$340).  Read More

The iRocker - iPod Gaming Music Chair

August 31, 2006 The iRocker is an interactive gaming chair with docking station that allows the user to lounge comfortably while enjoying surround-sound music . It comes complete with remote control, a multi-position reclining back, Heavy Magnet speakers, Base Tube (on many models), audio inputs, additional line input (to use with brands of MP3 players other than iPod) and master volume dial with LED indicator light (for non-docking models). It can also be used with any electronic device that has an audio output, making it ideal for video game sound set-up.  Read More

The Fish-N-Flush Toilet

August 29, 2006 The Fish ‘n Flush two-piece aquarium toilet tank was designed as a source of entertainment and conversation and from the moment it debuted earlier this year at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Chicago, it’s been getting serious main media attention. Firstly, let’s be clear that the fish in the aquarium are in no danger of being flushed. Fish-n-Flush is a two-piece aquarium toilet tank with an aquarium that wraps itself around a clear inner tank. The special tank within a tank retails for US$400, and comes with everything but water and fish. Manufacturer AquaOne worked with a marine biologist to develop the technology and produce a certified working aquarium.  Read More

Audio speakers constructed like a guitar

August 24, 2006 Audiophiles and audio engineers have long debated the relative sound quality of vacuum tubes, vinyl records, Class A amplifiers, and exotic speaker cables, however, while the musical character of some acoustic devices was often a happy coincidence, there is nothing unintentional about a new loudspeaker from Onkyo and Takamine. Onkyo is now shipping the unusual loudspeaker, designed jointly with renowned guitar manufacturer Takamine, to express the positive qualities of both speaker performance and musical instrument design and construction. The Onkyo D-TK10 designers consciously rejected the inert-box acoustics of conventional speaker cabinetry in favour of a freely-vibrating thin-wall enclosure based on high-end guitar construction. Through strategic placement of struts, stringers, and thickness variations, the speaker harnesses the sounds that would normally be absorbed within the enclosure to stimulate carefully controlled cabinet resonances for a much fuller and richer sonic character.  Read More

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