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Good Thinking

May 16, 2007 In many ways it’s a dream come true – IdeaConnection is quite seriously offering a penny for your thoughts. The newly launched website is marketing itself as a trading ground for ideas; allowing users to post problems and handpick a team of thinkers varied in age, experience, location and field of expertise to work on the solution. Whether you’re an armchair expert or battle hardened industry veteran, you can register to post a problem, propose your ideas, or place yourself in the site’s directory, allowing future posters to call on you for assistance. With a price tag of at least US$1000 per problem, the service does not come cheaply – however, by concentrating such a large amount of intelligence and experience into a collaborative community, it is likely the benefits that emerge from the site will far outweigh the costs. Read More
May 15, 2007 Now that we have enough computing power to crunch even the most gargantuan computing tasks, we are only limited in what we can do, by what we can measure. That’s why the advancement of sensor technology will become so very important in the coming decade. Sensors are currently used in many products to detect things like motion, light, temperature, pressure and flow, and play a vital role across a range of industries, for example as household smoke detectors, vehicle reversing aids and for ingredients monitoring in the food processing industry. The image at right is a 3D foot scanner designed to enable the easiest selection of comfortable shoes developed by Qinetiq. The development of new sensing technologies is hence critically important in generating new products and improving processes. British technology company Qinetiq’s purpose is “delivering Brilliant Solutions to Important Problems”. From integrating legacy weapons systems with state of the art sensors and software for the British MOD, to fielding advanced robotic systems for the US Department of Defense; providing port security products for the US Department of Homeland Security, or designing advanced security systems for many of the City's computer systems, QinetiQ’s technological prowess in the field of sensors and systems is vast. So we’re accordingly pleased to report that Qinetiq and Regional Development Agency Advantage West Midlands are establishing a new multi-million investment fund to be made available to businesses from early next month to stimulate the technical development of advanced sensors and their integration into technologies used in everyday life. Read More
May 14, 2007 We are a curious bunch, us human beings. Obsessed with our individuality and identity, and our ability to make well informed and rational decisions, it seems that most of us subconsciously follow the lead of innovators. Value segmentation models such as VALS2 for marketers have recognized the leadership value of the statistical minority generically known as innovators and now university researchers are beginning to unravel human behaviours and how they fuel trends in fashion. Durham University has examined the phenomenon of trends, and put forward an explanation as to why fads like crazy frog and soul patch goatees become so popular instead of dying in the hellfire they so richly deserve. According to the study, fashions are arbitrarily adopted by a reactive population who base their decisions not on the quality of a product, but rather on the actions of their peer group. The paper, published in the academic journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, claims that trends gain popularity because populations are constantly seeking change; but when it comes to adopting a new fashion they will look to their neighbours rather than to reason. Read More
May 9, 2007 BIOIDENT has announced the industry’s first complete, functional lab-on-a-chip system—the PhotonicFlow System. The first application of the PhotonicFlow System announced today is comprised of a multiwell chip, a handheld device controller and readout software. The PhotonicFlow System is based on BIOIDENT’s PhotonicLab Platform, which combines printed semiconductors with various lab-on-chip technologies. With this breakthrough technology development, BIOIDENT’s customers and partners now have the ability to develop disposable lab-on-a-chip solutions that eliminate the need for expensive and bulky readout systems, enabling cost-effective mobile diagnostics and analysis. This new prototype eliminates the need for large, expensive, external readout systems being used today and opens up new opportunities for applications in medical in-vitro diagnostics, chemical and biological threat detection, and water testing. Read More
May 8, 2007 Retail tracking solutions provider Paxar has been thinking slightly outside the square in coming up with its consumer-facing item-level RFID solution, magicmirror. For brands and retailers, magicmirror means the ability to touch customers on an emotional level and positively influence their purchasing decisions. When a customer or sales associate brings an RFID-tagged piece of clothing in front of the magicmirror, it automatically displays rich personalized information including brand messaging, garment description, size and color availability, as well as mix-and-match guides that suggest other items for accessorizing a wardrobe. When installed in the fitting room, customers can request immediate assistance from a salesperson by simply touching the magicmirror, without ever having to leave the room. Read More
May 6, 2007 Mathematica was released in 1988 and immediately had a profound effect on the way computers were used in technical fields. The concept of a single system that could handle all the aspects of technical computing in a coherent and unified way was revolutionary and was enabled by a new kind of symbolic computer language that could manipulate the wide range of objects needed to achieve the generality required for technical computing, using only a small number of basic primitives. The just announced release of the US$2495 Mathematica 6 is more than just a significant upgrade and in many respects it is a completely new product, promising to once again transform how computation is done, and more significantly, how it is taught. Mathematica 6 takes technical computing to a new level: more tightly bound, more natural, and more automated, applicable to a far wider range of areas than ever before. Central to this achievement is "instant interactivity"--taking models, simulations, computations, or just about any concepts and turning them into fully interactive applications, sometimes within seconds. This new way of working drastically improves innovation--the process of transforming ideas into highly optimized results. Don’t believe us? Check this out! Caution - this will take you HOURS!!!! Read More
May 2, 2007 Social bookmarking site Digg recently made the decision to remove a story containing the HD-DVD AACS Processing Key, which can be used to bypass the copy protection on any HD-DVD. The Digg community revolted, and very quickly the entire front page of the site was filled with stories related to the censorship, and of course, containing the AACS Processing Key. Read More
May 2, 2007 Though Virtual Reality (VR) is moving quickly towards realism on many fronts, one of the major problems in creating a realistic immersive experience is that of walking. If people walk around with a VR headset on, they will eventually bump into something hard and unforgiving – so researchers across the world are questing for a suitable device which offers proprioceptive feedback for VR walking. The human brain seems happy to suspend disbelief and accept many crude kludges in order to roleplay along with a VR event, but the missing factor has been the ability to give the body the same sort of corresponding feedback as the brain. You can’t simulate true human movement with any authenticity without the exertion normally accompanying it. We’ve previously written up two ingenious attempts to enable VR users to maintain their position while walking in virtual environments in the form of the commercially-available Virtusphere and a set of powered shoes being developed at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. Now there’s another clever solution being developed at the same university – the Stringwalker. String Walker uses eight strings actuated by motor-pulley mechanisms mounted on a turntable. Read More
April 24, 2007 In this age of disposable consumer goods, where entire iPods are replaced because it's easier than changing the dud battery, we're pleased to report the growing success of fixya.com, a support community and knowledgebase for repairing consumer products. The idea behind FixYa is to aggregate all support information that is scattered throughout the internet in a single user friendly location. In addition, FixYa is a huge knowledgebase that is constantly updated by a live community of users who share their experiences of technical problems and solutions. Through the site's unique rating system, FixYa is allowing users to find the best solution for every problem and even offer a new solution. Our aim is that over time, FixYa will offer the best solutions for the most common problems of each and every product the site is covering. The best thing about our knowledgebase is that it's based on true user experience rather than on projected FAQs by the manufacturer. Read More
April 18, 2007 Junior Achievement (JA) Romania in co-operation with Junior Achievement Young Enterprise (JA-YE) Europe organized the JA-YE Europe Trade Fair from 29 March to 1 April in Bucharest, Romania. The event brought together 500 young entrepreneurs from 30 European countries, representing 80 student companies. The event was an opportunity for European secondary school student companies to show off their innovative ideas, to sell their products and services in a public setting and share their entrepreneurial spirit. Read More