Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on Your Head? Consider the Air Umbrella

There’s some simple things that just don’t need to go high tech. Duct tape would be one (still useful in its native form on most high tech gadgets in fact), a wine glass might be another, and naturally you’ve got toilet paper (well until they perfect the three sea shells from “Demolition Man” of course).

Seriously, how does that work?

I would have thought that umbrellas might be another, but there’s a couple of inventors named Je Sung Park and Woo Jung Kwon working on a pretty cool idea for an upgrade in the invisible “Air Umbrella”. Essentially it is just a baton like object that takes air from the base of the device and shoots it to the top to create a barrier between the user and the elements that spreads for full coverage. Features allow the user to adjust the air flow to compensate for how heavy a rain (or snow) is present, and the baton itself is retractable for ease of carry.

The more you think about the idea behind the air umbrella, the more you see the advantages. For one thing, if you’ve ever been in a crowded public area with everyone carrying an umbrella, then you know the often comical, but sometimes dangerous, problems it causes which this device could theoretically eliminate. Also the low maintenance design of the air umbrella makes the other worst part of owing a traditional umbrella, lugging it around indoors, irrelevant.

While a really cool idea, it’s not all singing in the rain though when you look at the design, as I still wonder how the device would hold up in strong winds, and about the potential trouble it could cause for passerby hats (or short skirts if directed improperly). Finally much like the dome umbrella, or a Snuggie, this is a look that isn’t meant for everyone despite how practical it may be, as some people will always just feel out of place carrying a giant baton functioning as an invisible umbrella instead of the classic design.

The Penguin, for instance


Want a Nexus 4? Apparently So Does Everyone Else

Ever since its release, the LG Nexus 4 has been garnering praise from all corners due to it’s much improved camera, enhanced overall system speed, baffling array of high-end powerful features, and one of the most beautiful displays on any smartphone. Despite its notable lack of 4G LTE service (at least in the US), there are few out there that are denying it is one of the most technically impressive phones available.

Odds are good though you haven’t had a chance to experience what all of the hype is about, as it’s proven to be one of the most difficult to get phones on the market. Since launch, buyers have been scouring the internet looking for rare windows to purchase one at reasonable retail prices. Ideally, this would be done through the Google store, and sure enough yesterday for the first time since the Nexus 4’s release  they were offering the phones back in stock.

However, it  now looks like no real celebration is in order since as of today attempting to buy the phone will only warn you of its 8-9 week delivery time for the 8 GB model, and month minimum shipment date for the 16 GB version. Considering how long the window of opportunity was, it would seem that the sale was either an aberration, or that the Nexus 4 truly is the hottest phone of the holiday season.

In either case, the shortage of available phones is making some fans remember the madness surrounding the Nexus 7 tablet earlier this year, where even buyers who believed they purchased an in-stock tablet found themselves suddenly waiting and waiting for a unit to free up and ship out. Although, this time Google has taken precautions to insure those same expectations are kept more in check.

Considering that the Nexus 4 was meant as a high end smartphone at a competitive price, the sudden lack of options has changed the outlook of the the device so that it is now a high end smartphone at absurd prices. To fetch one, you have to turn to suspicious third party sites, or gouging eBay sellers, and deal with price inflations that are ranging anywhere from $150 to $300 or more. If you must have one by Christmas though (or in 2012), it would seem that may be the only option though.

There are more high quality smartphones on the market than ever before, and yet it seems in the mind of consumers the real race is now between the Nexus 4, the Galaxy SIII, and the best selling smartphone ever in the iPhone 5 for the crown. Considering most buyers won’t even be getting a Nexus this year, I’ll be interested to see how the hype and mania around the new model carries over to the other big two’s inevitable new designs in 2013.


Film Controller “Hold On” Lets You Punch Chuck Norris, and Get Away With It

As video games grow to mimic movies more and more, the desire to experience the two in harmony with each other is greater than ever.

What I mean is that sensation you suddenly get when playing “Uncharted” to watch “Indiana Jones”. Or, the opposite that makes a “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” viewing lead to a “Red Dead Redemption” marathon. The examples go on, but for media junkies the combination of gaming and movies provides the ultimate fix.

Now two inventors, Emilie Brout & Maxime Marion, are unifying that media relationship in a very interesting way, courtesy of their device called “Hold On“. Exhibited at the recent GAMERZ festival, “Hold On” uses a very simple set-up that includes two buttons and a joystick (the basic arcade cabinet) and allows you to manipulate characters and situations in some of your favorite movies. Examples so far include turning a nature documentary with dung beetles into a puzzle game, attempting to delay the death of your film crew in “The Blair Witch Project”, navigating the halls of that infamous haunted hotel in “The Shining” on Danny’s tricycle, and perhaps best of all, controlling Bruce Lee in his infamous film fight against a young Chuck Norris from “Way of the Dragon“.

The creators say they’ve been able to incorporate 15 interactive movie moments so far, all of which offer some sort of basic manipulation of the scene on display that work similar to the classic arcade title “Dragon’s Lair” in terms of your abilities. It’s not so much about the complexity though as it is the intriguing idea of combing a familiar fictional situation with the enhanced emotional attachment of personal involvement, as well as an uncertain outcome, as the user it not necessarily bound to the same results as the film scene, and certainly not the same path.

So far, outside of an extremely entertaining and well received demonstration, there isn’t much in the way of plans for “Hold On” at this time. However, it would be interesting to see a more developed version turn into something similar to the party game “Scene It”, or for it to be incorporated into major home video, or digital streaming, releases to give the user interactive options (trivia and mini-games via special features would probably be the best bets) during some of their favorite films.

In whatever capacity the tool is eventually used in, it’s already pretty clear that between this project, and the group’s other (a modification of Google Earth that lets you explore movie worlds) that they are fanatics of both film and technology, as well as skilled practitioners in the use of both. It’s the biggest reason why this device, while not unprecedented in its technology, may go on to success in whatever endeavor it  chooses, and provide film and game fans with the greatest tool to relieve and personally experience their passions yet.


Tired of Fish Poop Doing Nothing For You? Read On…

Thanks in part to dystopian sci-fi films that depict a world overrun by technology and devoid of natural elements, many people think that technology and the “green” world are at conflict.

Realistically though, responsible applications of modern technology could be greatly beneficial in helping nature, much as it has helped humans. For a great example look no further than the organization Back to the Roots who are constantly looking for new ways to help both individual users and companies like Whole Foods minimize their environmental impacts with products like a kit that can take coffee grounds and grow fresh mushrooms from them.

However, their most intriguing product is currently up for funding on Kickstarter, and it’s called the Home Aquaponics Kit. Basically it’s a fish tank with a small growing area atop for potted plants. The tank automatically filters the fish feces to the plants above to provide them with necessary nutrients needed for them to grow fuller. In essence then, you are getting a self cleaning fish tank that doubles as a personal home garden in one package.

As you’ve probably heard from that celebrity everybody wishes would shut up, or that activist girl you acted interested in for a while until you got…uninterested, we can all be doing more for the environment. The Home Aquaponics Kit not only allows you to contribute a little more green to your world, but if you’ve never cooked with truly fresh herbs, it lets you discover the flavors you have been missing.

It’s currently a $50 minimum contribution on Kickstarter to buy one of the Aquaponics (assuming the funding goal is reached), and for the urban gardener, fish enthusiast, or someone looking to just class up their apartment a little, it may prove to be worth it.


An Auto Pet Feeder for the Busy/Lazy Among Us

Pets really are great for many, many, reasons, the least of which being that they really don’t require much. Some water, some food, and the occasional toy are nice, but what any expert will tell you is that in the end what they really need is a healthy amount of love and personal attention.

Of course, if you’re being practical, if it is between personal attention and food, you should probably go with food.

Which is why there is an idea like the Pintofeed out there that recognizes you can’t always be around to feed your pet. For those times, it provides 5 and 10 pound storage areas that allows you to automatically feed your pet in pre-set portions via a mobile app.

The Pintofeed is smartly designed to function as a perfect “while you are away” feeder, with features like the ability to control several at once via your mobile app for multiple pets, being able to set food measurements down to the half cup, and even receiving an alert once the feeding is complete. The device works off of your in home wireless network, is available for multiple users, and is currently attempting to reach its $50,000 donation goal on indiegogo.com, with 29 days to go if you are interested.

It’s a shame when you can’t be around to feed your pets like you want to be, but when those times do happen, it’d be great to have the ability to still insure they’re fed with complete ease. Because in situations like that, the only other option is to trust your neighbors to do it, and really who knows what those weirdos are up to.

Oh He’ll Feed Your Pet, The Question Is To What?