Highlights from the 2014 LA Auto Show

Ben Coxworth

Harvard University has licensed the technology for its tiny Kilobots, enabling other group...

Do you think that you’ll never be able to afford a robot of your own that isn’t a toy? Well, if you can get Swiss robot-maker K-Team Corporation to sell you one, chances are you can easily afford a Kilobot – perhaps even a whole bunch of them. Designed and first built by Harvard University’s Self-Organizing Systems Research Group, the three-legged robots aren’t much larger than the 3.4-volt button cell batteries that power them, and move by vibrating across smooth, flat surfaces. They were created to study robotic swarming behavior, with the intention that tens, hundreds or even thousands of them could be used simultaneously in one experiment. Harvard has just announced that it has licensed the Kilobot technology to K-Team, which will commercially manufacture the robots so that other groups and institutions can purchase them for their own research.  Read More

TASCAM has just released its new iM2 Stereo Microphone for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

With the various aftermarket lenses that have become available for the iPhone recently, it’s easy to forget that the smartphone is capable of recording not only video, but also audio. Should you not want to be limited by its single bottom-mounted condenser mic, however, what choices are there? Well, you can play reporter and get a handheld condenser, or as of this Monday, you can now pick up TASCAM’s iM2 Stereo Microphone for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.  Read More

Scientists have discovered that objects coated with a forest of carbon nanotubes can be ma...

Although Klingon-style disappearing spaceships may not be in our neighborhood any time soon, the technology that could allow a spaceship to vanish from sight may be here now. Scientists from the University of Michigan have successfully made a three-dimensional etched silicon image of a tank appear as a featureless black void, that completely blended in with the backdrop surrounding it. The secret: good ol’ carbon nanotubes.  Read More

Scientists have created a contact lens that can can project an image onto the wearer's ret...

Fans of the original film in the Terminator franchise will recall how various bits of data were shown to be overlaid on the cyborg's vision - in particular, they might remember the list of possible responses that could be used when someone was angrily knocking on its door (for those who don't remember, its chosen response wasn't very polite). Such augmented vision systems are now a little closer to reality, thanks to work being done by a team of scientists at the University of Washington and Aalto University, in Finland. They have created a contact lens that displays information, which is visible to the wearer.  Read More

The Car Interior Preheater is a portable, battery-powered device that warms up the inside ...

Of the various “joys” of winter, one of the biggest has got to be getting into a frozen-solid automobile, then sitting and shivering as you wait for the inside of the windshield to defrost. Many people instead opt for remote engine starters, although these must be professionally installed, plus they waste fuel while also creating air pollution – some cities have even passed anti-idling bylaws, to limit their harmful effects. So, what’s a winter wimp to do? Well, they can now buy the Car Interior Preheater.  Read More

An emotion-recognizing computer system has been designed to make the use of automated tele...

Nobody likes having to deal with automated telephone services, that say wonderful things like, “You said ‘Beelzebub,’ is that correct?”. Such services may get slightly less annoying, however, thanks to research being carried out at Spain’s Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and Universidad de Granada. A team of scientists from those institutions have created a computer system that is able to recognize the emotional state of a person speaking to it, so that it can alter its behavior to make things less stressful.  Read More

The iPhone Lens Dial features wide angle, fisheye and telephoto lenses, which swivel into ...

Once upon a time, before zoom lenses were invented, movie and TV cameras had three lenses that the user could choose between, using a Lazy Susan-type arrangement to swivel them into place - you wanted to go wide, you'd swing in the wide-angle lens, if you needed a close-up, you'd swing in the telephoto. Well, in the spirit of everything old being new again, the iPhone Lens Dial now offers the same functionality for Apple's iconic smartphone.  Read More

The SLUG is a device that allows users to record any streamed audio off of a computer or o...

Perhaps you’ve experienced this frustration before. There’s a piece of audio on a website that you want to use in a project of your own, and it’s playing right there on your computer, yet you have no way of copying it – short of holding a microphone up to your speakers, that is. Well, Kenneth Gibbs and Seena Zandipour want to change that. They’ve invented a little gizmo called the SLUG, that can reportedly obtain lossless recordings of any streamed audio being played back by a computer or other electronic device. The music labels will no doubt be about as happy to see the emergence of this thing as they were when blank audio cassettes first hit the stores.  Read More

The Fizik Kurve is a high-tech racing bicycle saddle that uses the same principle as the v...

Fizik is a company probably best known for making bicycle saddles designed for racers, where light weight is everything and comfort is pretty low on the scale. Brooks, on the other hand, is famous for its very comfortable leather saddles, which most racers wouldn’t allow anywhere near their sleek, streamlined steeds. It’s interesting, therefore, that Fizik’s latest saddle, the Kurve, uses the same principle employed by Brooks. It’s good news for sore-bummed racers.  Read More

The above-water component of one of the four Wave Gliders

It may sound like the premise for the latest Pixar movie, but it’s actually happening – four small autonomous aquatic robots have embarked on a 60,000-kilometer (37,000-mile) journey across the Pacific ocean. The Wave Gliders, built by California-based Liquid Robotics, left San Francisco last Thursday. All four will travel together to Hawaii, at which point they will split into two pairs – one of those pairs will proceed to Australia, with the other heading for Japan. Called PacX (for “Pacific Crossing”), the project will constitute the longest voyage ever completed by an unmanned ocean vessel.  Read More

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