Archive for January, 2007

The font of creativity runs dry; iPod Speaker Docks suffer

The font of creativity runs dry; iPod Speaker Docks suffer

Of all the things Saffire could've "borrowed" industrial design from out of Apple's generally impecable catalogue, they had to go and choose the monstrous iPod HiFi.  And then, to add ridicule to blandness, they called their version the "iWoogie Blaster".  Now forgive me for seeming far too British and reserved, but I'm pretty sure I've never "woogied" and I don't intend to start now.

 

Compatible with all iPods and replete with an infra-red remote that actually has more features than the standard skip/play/pause you get with most of its ilk, the iWoogie Blaster's slogan is "Guarantee to Rock Speakers".  I'm not entirely certain as to how they monitor the effectiveness of this promise - perhaps a tilt sensor? - but should you be in the market for a speaker-dock that looks remarkably like a bread-bin then maybe this is the one for you.

More photos after the cut.

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More on using a pen with Vista

More on using a pen with Vista

Having whet my appetite regarding the pen-features in Vista, I was pleased to see that more demonstrations of how Tablet PC afficianados will be catered for are hitting the web. SlashGear reader inago dropped by to point out some footage of pen-flicks and handwriting recognition using a Wacom Graphire4 6x8 tablet and business version of the OS and Office 2007.

Handwriting Recognition:

Check out his clip of pen-flicks after the cut.

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Robo-dino nears birth

Robo-dino nears birth

Sometimes, when I wake up of a morning, before I even reach for the coffee I check on how Richard Attenborough is doing in his makeshift laboratory in the cupboard under my sink. "How are you doing, Richard Attenborough?" I ask, nudging him with my foot. "Please let me go, I'm just an actor, you have to believe me!" he replies, the cunning swine. I know that in reality he can breed me a whole theme-park full of dinosaurs and make me a millionaire. And then I have some cereal.

Until he reaches another breakthrough, I guess I'll have to make do with Ugobe's Pleo robotic dinosaur. The little green fellow has already generated quite a lot of hype, with Time, Inc. naming it one of their "Products of 2006", and as the 3rd February pre-order launch nears there's more information finding its way onto the internet.

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PC Magazine's Lance Ulanoff met with the Ugobe guys and spent some hands-on time with Pleo at CES this year, and the developments are impressive. Movement is smoother, the artificial skin is more flexible and tactile, and the way Pleo reacts to different stimuli has been made more complex so as to make him appear even more lifelike.

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Minor Mass Production

Minor Mass Production

Neatorama points to this incredible Lego Car Factory, obviously the product of someone with too much time on their hands and an obsession with constructing tiny vehicles. Still, they probably said the same about the people behind Toyota, and look at them now.

Some satisfying toggle-switches allow selections of colour, and then the cogs and gears hum into life to shuttle bricks between a variety of arms and construction platforms. Fantastic stuff!

[via Neatorama]

A walking, talking, dancing, squalking robot man

A walking, talking, dancing, squalking robot man

My favourite sci-fi film for as long as I can remember is The Day The Earth Stood Still.  What stands out particularly is the sight of guard-robot Gort, he of the impecable posture and few words, move from guarding the flying saucer to club the soldiers patrolling around it.  Still, perhaps it would've been an even more interesting movie had Gort been able to speak (though not as much as C3PO, obviously) - quoting some Shakespeare perhaps while melting guns in the hands of soldiers.  Klaatu should've spoken to the Botmag people.

 

They've taken a Robonova kit and added the Quadravox QV306M1 sound chip, capable of storing up to four minutes of chopped-up audio and spitting it out on demand.  Complex sentences (whether those be Homer Simpson-style "D'oh, my foot!" moments of Asimo stumbling or dark mutterings about taking over the world) can be built up using the PC software and docking station.

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Shock! A sexy phone not made by Apple!

Shock! A sexy phone not made by Apple!

It feels a little bit like we're not allowed to say cellphones are attractive any more, what with the iPhone and its perception-warping ability to draw the eye in and elicit cries of "it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!"  And yet I'm thinking that this KDDI au cellphone, called the MEDIA SKIN, is a particularly sexy design; the sharp edges, matte casing, unassuming keypad and crisp UI all add up to a great looking handset.

Now it might not have a fancy multi-touch screen, but the MEDIA SKIN's is 2.4-inches of 260k colour, 240×320 resolution prettiness and manages a fantastic 10,000:1 contrast ratio.  That's better than a lot of plasma TVs!  A 1.3 Megapixel camera with memory upgradeable to 2GB via microSD rounds out the 105g handset's features, but personally it's the design of the thing that I'm most enjoying. 

KDDI au MEDIA SKIN cellphone

Lots more photos after the cut.

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Sheath your Macbook

Sheath your Macbook

In the days when laptop computers were more accurately termed "luggables", molly-coddling your machine wasn't really an option.  Once you'd heaved it out of the boot of your car, suspension hissing loudly in relief, you half-manhandled, half-dragged it to your desk and battered away at recalcitrant keys for the day.  Now, of course, we're used to pretty little slices of over-designed portable computing, the pinnacle of which is undoubtedly anything bearing an Apple logo.  And so crafty, niche-spotting manufacturers pander to our extreme fear of letting anything mar those brushed aluminium surfaces or slip between the slender keys; enter, stage-left, the iSkin ProTouch Keyboard Protector.

Gear Diary's Mitchell Oke has been playing with this computer condom, to see just how well it can shield the keyboard of his MacBook from crumbs, bits of sandwich and other detritus, although he stops short of spilling any sort of liquid over its rubbery hide (poor show, Mitchell!  Throw the bugger in the bath!)

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HTC Titan – but is it time to change the design?

HTC Titan – but is it time to change the design?

Forgive me, for I know it's blasphemy, but does anyone else think that many of the slide-out-keyboard cellphone designs stink?  Oh yes, I'm sure they're reasonable in ergonomic terms (if you ignore the potential for finger-trashing after a few days full of hunt'n'peck), but to actually look at they're chubby and generally bland.  It could just be me that feels that way, however, in which case I'll likely be the only one not to be all that bothered by photos of HTC's Titan handheld leaking out.

When the biggest physical differences are a relocated scroll-wheel, repositioned keyboard LEDs and rubbery backing, I'm afraid I'll be destined to be underwhelmed.  Still, Rev. A-upgradeable EV-DO, 256MB of internal storage, Bluetooth 2.0 and a 2-megapixel camera aren't bad. 

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Don’t trust this robot to valet park

Don’t trust this robot to valet park

This is something of a public service announcement.  Any robot that tells you that car-theft is a victim-less crime is a fool.  Someone obviously needs to tell Autonomous Solutions to bring their offspring up better, although with a name like Chaos you're asking for trouble I suppose.  What's wrong with a nice, sensible name... Peter, maybe, or George?  But no, Chaos is a quad-tracked, self-correcting mobile platform capable not only of dragging away someone's Hummer (as in the video below) but withstanding the sort of hazardous environments that would generally see a normal worker's reproductive parts gain extra chromosomes.

 

Covert car park theft is aided by the near-silent motor and gearbox design, which also allows for a maximum 3-hour battery life.  Control software supplied with Chaos permits either direct operator control or 'multi-vehicle autonomous behaviour', a phrase guaranteed to get the easily-befreaked muttering ominously about "robot overlords".

More video after the cut.

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Eschew music; let’s hear you speak

Eschew music; let’s hear you speak

Now Crave reckon this Micro Memo voice-recorder for the 2G Nano looks like a traditional English Beefeater standing guard, but I think it makes your DAP look like a one-armed bandit slot machine.  So really, the truth is a whole lot more boring - a flexible microphone lets you record audio and save it as (memory hogging) WAV files.

An 8GB Nano can hold up to 51 hours of audio, though of course that means you're forced to listen to meetings and "memo to self" notelets on the subway home rather than that swell mashup album you downloaded yesterday.

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