The World’s Most Advanced Rocking Chair, Just in Time For Christmas

The mention of a rocking chair conjures many images. Among them are old men whittling away the hours on slow country nights, creepy horror movie sets, banjos, swamps, and of course, people looking infinitely relaxed. Of all the images though, none of them would probably be that of top of the line technology. Instead rocking chairs are a relic of a simpler time, and thankfully always will be.

Nah, I’m just messing with you.

Called the iRock (…ok that’s pretty good) this oak rocking chair is designed by the Sweedish based Micasa Labs and retails for $1300. While I’m sure that it is quite sturdy, well built, and comfortable, the real appeal of the iRock comes from its Apple compatibility.

On the arm rest is a standard Apple dock for your iPad or iPhone. Plug into the dock, and as long as you continue to rock the chair, your device will keep charging. Specifically, the makers of the chair estimate that rocking for 60 minutes will charge an iPad 3 to 35%, although as long as it’s in use your device will continue to charge and can also store energy. There is also a nice pair of 25 Watt speakers on either side of your head for a completely integrated media experience. It also comes in 5 different colors, although it’s hard to argue against the standard Apple white.

Now obviously the appeal of this device is going to be niche to say the least. However, I think that you’ll be surprised by the depth of potential buyers. Groups that include:

–          The Rich

–          The Eccentric

–          People who love their iPads way too much

–          Your rich, eccentric grandfather who loves his iPad way too much.

–          People in areas with really, really, unsteady electrical output

–          Minamilists that are secretly tech-freaks

–          Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin? Yeah, you see not only was he an innovator in the field of electricity, but he’s also rumored to have created the rocking chair. So I think he might appreciate this device.

Actually no, even he’d probably think it’s ridiculous.

Although, you’ll still need a lot of him to get one


How Jesse Ventra and “Predator” Innovated U.S. Combat Operations

Ideally the movie “Predator” would inspire us all in our everyday lives.

The story of an expendable soldier, left for dead, fighting against not just the elements, but the most dangerous creature to ever set foot on the planet, as well as an internal struggle to maintain his own humanity, remains to this day one of the most poignant and heartbreaking tales ever told on the big screen. Its political allegories, deep characterization, and a neorealism sense of perspective remain beacons of creative guidance for all young filmmakers. Truly, its throwaway lone Oscar nomination for visual effects is the greatest crime in the history of the Academy Awards.

At least that’s how I always saw it. To most I guess it really is just the story of Arnold Schwarzenegger showing off his 80’s physique while a group of action film bad assess proceed to destroy the better part of a rain forest. The truth is the average viewer sees it as nothing more than a simple, albeit classic, relic of the over the top action movie era where nothing was in any way realistic.

However, there is at least one other person that didn’t view the movie like that, and his name is Staff Sargent Vincent Winkowski. He looked at the movie and saw a true potential military innovation.

Specifically, it was in relation to former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura’s character in the movie, Blain. In the movie, Blain toted a usually mounted size mini gun around with him, that was fed a seemingly infinite amount of ammunition from a backpack he wore. Single handedly, he was able to mow down waves of enemies with ease, despite the incredible weight and bulk of his weapon. It was one of those ideas that made it such a beautifully absurd film, and led to one of the most iconic movie weapons of all time.

Only Sargent Winkowski didn’t think it was so absurd. After all, the usual method for using a similar heavy weapon in the real field of combat involves a three man team, each with an individual task, to make such a gun work. Having three men assigned to one weapon proved very difficult in combat scenarios, when the chaos of the moment can often make it difficult for three soldiers to maintain the rigid tactics required to operate a heavy machine gun.

Following a conversation about the movie “Predator” with fellow soldiers, Winkowski began to wonder why there really wasn’t a device like the backpack that Ventura wore that would allow for one man to operate a heavy machine gun. He started creating such a device and, though heavily jerry rigged, eventually came up with a design very similar to the one in the movie. He passed it off for testing to some specialists on the subject (IE: bad asses) and they concluded that even in its early stage, it was still superior to the old method. One of them even took it into a heavy combat zone, and not only reported back alive, but also that it indeed worked as intended.

That was in 2011, and from there the prototype was passed on to a military development team who, with the help of input from soldiers and its original creators, have been working on a fully functional production model. Now, as being reported by, military memos from earlier in the year have this once pipe dream film prop looking for a manufacturer for field use.

They’re calling it the large capacity ammunition carriage system (wait, our military is taking advice from “Predator” and that’s the best they got?), and it’s essentially a backpack carrying an ammo crate with protruding belts that feed into the weapon. It allows for more mobility, less personnel required, more ammunition availability, and (ideally) less jamming, meaning it could actually re-imagine how the military uses this type of soldier. Not bad for a few guys who saw “Predator” a few too many times.

Although, considering that two of the actors in “Predator” went on to become governors, you would think there would have been enough political pull available to get some of this tech released sooner.


The iPad Mini – The Worm in Apple’s Core

The iPad mini was recently unveiled to the shock of few, but certainly the delight of many of the Apple faithful who, with outstretched arms and open wallets, welcomed the new 7.9 inch tablet into the world. It is beautiful, it is fast, and it is currently so hot that the surface of the sun is considering releasing a sex tape to stay relevant.

It also represents one of the biggest Apple missteps in years.

Now, let me make this clear. I love the iPhone 5 (though I prefer the Galaxy S3 in many respects), I would trade limbs for the any of the upcoming MacBook line, and I think that the iPad 3 and it’s mind blowing retina display is without competition the best all-around gadget on the market, and possibly the company’s greatest release on a purely technical level. I certainly do not hate Apple, and instead love them for how they force everyone to step up their game.

And that’s why I am tremendously disappointed with the iPad Mini. Since the original Kindle Fire received a great deal of mockery initially for being viewed as a “can’t afford the iPad, might as well settle” device, the small tablet market has become its own niche, no longer defined by the functions of the iPad. This is particularly evident by the quality of the Google Nexus 7, a tablet that’s versatility far outshines any limitations it is supposed to have. It’s also an idea that’s being carried on by the news of the upcoming Kindle Fire HD, which at its full price model is as statistically impressive of a 7 inch model as we’ve seen.

It would have once been impossible to imagine that a small tablet released by Apple wouldn’t storm a market set up to defy it like a bully on a fresh playground. Instead the visual we are left with after its initial unveiling is a timid child approaching with a drooping baseball cap feebly mumbling, “Hey guys…can I play?”

You can view the statistics and figures of the iPad Mini compared to its main competitors, and you’ll find that it is pretty much even, slightly better, or slightly worse in all fields. I like the super slim size and light weight of it to be sure, and of course appreciate its typical Apple beauty, but there is no one spec that jumps out at you as truly jaw dropping, or even noteworthy. Well, besides the price, which runs from $329 for the base model 16 GB with WiFi up to a 64 GB model with LTE capabilities for $659. This is compared to the Fire HD which is $199 for the 16 GB model, and the Nexus 7 which goes for $199 for and 8 GB and $249 for the 16 GB.

Now, you could justify the price of the iPad mini if it was indeed the top of the line, “Rolls-Royce” of  7-inch tablets. However, you just don’t get that vibe from the early word about the mini. The positives so far talk about what a great e-reader it is, its ultra slim design, and of course the benefit of the Apple app market which is far and away deeper than the Android market, and has apps designed more for a tablet in mind which Android is lagging on. That last point has been a the major defense of Apple since the announcement of the mini, as they have been feverishly supporting their price point to many different sources, with the main idea being that what you’re really buying here is the Apple brand and everything that comes with it, more than a product that can be easily defined by numbers.

But the question for consumers must be is that really still worth it? Can you justify using the word investment on what is still essentially a first gen product, that will no doubt be outstripped by a new model next year for the benefits of the tablet specific apps, and the Apple brand? Apple is touting that the mini is not a reduced and instead a condensed form of  the regular iPad, but ironically  in a market once created as a smaller alternative to the iPad comes an actual smaller iPad that finds itself in a field where that is no longer enough. The Google Nexus 7 was a game changer for 7 inch tablets as it proved that you don’t have to compromise for a smaller size, and that a cheaper tablet can perform on a high level for a reasonable price, with features and qualities unique to its model. It’s hard to say the same for the iPad mini which still looks and feels like a smaller iPad, but not a 7 inch iPad of its own.

In times gone by Apple would not have put up with competition in its domain and would have unequivocally released the 7 inch tablets to end all 7 inch tablets. While the iPad mini looks like a more than competent device that will no doubt perform at a high level, for the first time in a long time consumers have viable options to choose from when facing the prospect of going against an Apple device.

The only question is, will they test these new waters in mass, or blindly take the worm like the good little fishes Apple seems to think they are?


New Wheelchair to Make Much More of the World Handicap Accessible

For as easy as technology has made the lives of the average healthy, able bodied, and sound minded person, it’s done even more miraculous things for those who are disabled or impaired in any way. Many conditions that were once a death sentence at worst, and a guaranteed difficult and painful life at best, or now treatable, or even curable, thanks to advancements in so many fields.

Now Japanese researchers at the Chiba Institute of Technology may have just made a truly significant improvement to one of the oldest and most vital of all medical aids: the wheelchair.

Four wheel drive powered, and heavily reliant on robotics and hydraulics, this wheel chair is based on the the simple idea of providing true range of mobility to the tragically immobile among us. Primarily using sensors on the bottom, this wheelchair is incredibly useful in situations that the average wheelchair fails at such as taking a sharp turn, incline, or making tight movements in confined spaces. However, the feature that truly makes it excel is how it handles obstacles and steps.

That’s right. This thing can actually climb steps and go over common items that would have once been an impediment. The sensors gauge the distance of the steps or items and the chair does the rest. Even larger objects (like cinderblocks) can be overcome using communication between the rear wheels and the front to create the appropriate amount of leverage.

Now the actual movements themselves are somewhat awkward right now, but the job still gets done in any case. Besides, the more important thing is that the idea of such an innovation is out there for either the researchers at Chiba to perfect, or for other groups to start experimenting with, in the hopes that one of the most serious of physical detriments may one day no longer prevent those that suffer from it from performing basic movements in everyday scenarios.

Hell, I wouldn’t mind one for the mornings when my brain and my legs aren’t on the same page yet.

I kid, I kid.


We May Soon Have a Cure-All For the Burnt Tongue

Along with the dreaded stubbed toe, and the fierce paper cut (which thanks to technology, future generations may never have to know), a burnt tongue is one of the more annoying every day pains you can suffer.

The only problem is, even though the pain lasts all day and ranges from incredibly annoying to genuinely painful, you can never really let anyone know your discomfort without anyone questioning your toughness. At best, you’ll find a gentle soul to oblige you with a comforting “I hate when that happens”, but you’ll find little more sympathy than that to soothe your pain and even less in the way of actual relief.

Researchers at the University of Texas are hoping to change all that as they are working on a dissolvable strip similar to the ones used for bad breath that will cure the common liquid beverage burn in your mouth. The strip uses a benzocaine that numbs the pain in your mouth, and also helps the affected area to heal faster.  The strip is supposed to very discrete, and comfortable, although it is not ready yet as scientists are preparing for human tests, with the biggest objectives still remaining being making the strips usable on more severe burns, and figuring out a way to make the taste pleasant.

Regardless of when they come out, it’s about time someone figured out a solution to a problem that dates back all the way to food being hot, and people being impatient. No longer relegated to grandmother cures like honey, sugar, or ice cream (why do grandmas want to fatten us?) for the burnt mouth, we could be staring a future where you are free to recklessly drink your coffee right away, or attack a bowl of soup like a maniacal homeless man without consequence.