The MaKey MaKey; Changing Input One Banana at a Time

Confused by the headline? Well, it’s about to get stranger.

That’s thanks to this new invention called the MaKey MaKey. It’s another project that’s finding success on Kickstarter, and its goal is to inspire the creative side out of everyone that uses it, and try to turn the world into inventors.

And it’s achieving that with little more hardware than a circuit board and some alligator clips.

If you couldn’t watch that video (or if you were just as befuddled as I was when I saw it), I’ll elaborate. The Makey Makey is a small circuit board that provides inputs meant to function in place of your basic mouse and keyboard set up. You simply plug one end of the alligator clips into the inputs you desire and then attach the clips to any item that can conduct any form of electricity (bananas seem to work very well, but a pencil drawing, Play-Doh, or a million other items would theoretically work), and that item now functions as the input device.

Examples shown so far include a series of bananas substituting for the keys of a piano, Play-Doh being formed into the shape of a controller to play Super Mario Bros., and four buckets of water filling in for a Dance Dance Revolution dance pad. But from the looks of it, anything is possible.

Again the device’s main goal is to inspire creativity in its users and to try to blossom the inventor in everyone. It’s seems to be meant mostly for artists, amateur creators, and of course children, where it might ultimately find its biggest success in the toy market.

Of course just like another hot invention of recent times, The MakerBot, I think that the Makey Makey’s biggest contributions lay in the technology the invention is based off of and not the actual invention itself. Still with almost $130,000 dollars raised so far for the Makey Makey, it looks to find success in one field or another immediately, whether or not there is still more promising things it can lead to down the line.

  

The Tesla Gun: “IT’S ALIVE!!!”

The real Nikola Tesla is a strange historical figure. His works in the field of electricity, particularly his groundbreaking work in alternating currents, laid a foundation for countless technological advancements that would follow. Yet he’s more famous these days for his reclusive nature, wild beliefs, and his many failed (yet utterly fascinating) inventions and prototypes. The combination of these attributes have led many people to dub him a true “mad scientist,” and his place in pop culture revolves almost entirely around that distinction

Take for instance the graphic novel “The Five Fists of Science.” It’s a steampunk world tale of the fictional adventures of Tesla, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, and other historical figures. In it, Tesla regularly wields two lighting guns that allow him all sorts of abilities and chances to dominate his enemies. Most anyone reading this story would look at this invention and either say “That’s awesome!” and silently wish for a pair, or merely think nothing of it at all and write it off as one of those “comic book things.”

Inventor Rob Flickenger is the rare third type of person. He read this book, and saw those guns, and said, “Why not?”

What that no doubt perfectly sane and well adjusted man is holding is, for all purposes, a lighting gun. Or, as he would prefer it be known, The Tesla Gun. It’s very real, and it certainly works.

While the design is different than the inspiration, it’s no less impressive. Especially considering that the body of it is simply a Nerf Gun that’s wrapped in aluminum. From there the blueprint gets slightly more complicated, but not so tricky that the creator is afraid to post the basic recipe of one on his blog for all to see (though to be fair, even he recommends some pretty extreme caution).

The process is one thing, but what really matters are the results. And whether you’re looking for simple light show, or just need to stake your claim of the city of Metropolis, this thing definitely gets results. Specifically it can produce over 20,000 volts of electricity in the form of a brilliant grouping of electrical arcs. If you’re wondering, this is certainly enough to kill a man, including the user.

So what is the long term implications of this invention? It has none. What moral questions does it raise concerning science? None that I can think of. Does this represent the future of weaponry? Most definitely not. It is simply an entertaining example of how both the evolution of  technology, and the persistency of human ingenuity, have led us into an era where we now get to question the possibility of even the most ludicrous sci-fi inventions.

And to think the inventor just made it to accessorize the lab coat his fiancé got him for Halloween.

  

A Look at the Latest and Greatest Car Tech

Cars have become so much more than transportation. They are technology wonders that offer not just performance and a smooth ride, but are now a safety fortress and a travelling office. So what is the hottest, newest technological feature in today’s new cars?

Photo Source: Sportscar Workshops w/CC license

It Takes a Spark

Remember the spark plug? It’s a perfect wonder of technology that really is the linchpin to any combustion engine. Much like the mouse trap, the goal has been to build one better, and Champion finally has.

With all the more aerated fuels and economy engines, the ability to spark has been severely diminished. But no more. The Corona ignition uses plasma technology to emit high energy to its four tips, causing the combustion needed and much more force than its predecessor’s tiny spark.

Photo Source: MSVG w/CC license

More Power, Less Energy

The spark is just the start. Now you’ll be able to get more bang for your buck with fewer cylinders and more power. Both Ford and GM are unveiling a 1.0-liter 3-cylinder car, and other giants like BMW and Mercedes are trading in their giant engines for smaller equivalents with similar performance.

Speaking of more performance, remember when 5-speed transmissions were cool? Now you can get 7- and 8-speeds that not only scoot but offer better fuel economy. Several automakers are now using dual-clutch transmissions, which also boost gas efficiency and shift so smoothly that you barely know it’s happening.

Photo Source: Dylan Cantwell w/CC license

It’s the Little Things

It’s not just the engines and safety features that get an overhaul – it’s the compatibility, with computers and smartphones. For instance, most automakers have a model or 2 in their repertoires that includes Internet connectivity and interfacing with your smartphone. Some are even partnering with mobile phone providers, such as GM’s new agreement with LG. Taking the integration a step further, Mercedes introduced an iPhone app that will be able to control the car’s entertainment, navigation, and other functions – all from your dashboard.

While you’re fiddling with your dashboard, your safety belt has got some tricks up its buckle, too. From intelligent airbag systems to inflatable belts, these safety systems are technological wonders. There are also great features like distance control and night vision assist. See? Your car is becoming more cyborg by the minute.

Another huge boost in technology for select vehicles is Active Park Assist. Ford offers this unique method of parking that doesn’t require anything except the push of a button. Drivers don’t even need to touch the steering wheel during the process. You can see the technology in action in this video.

The technology of new cars is changing faster than the car itself can travel. Improvements in technology have also reduced the need for things like mechanical breakdown insurance. Keep an eye on the horizon and your hands on the wheel – at least until your phone can drive for you.

  

3 Car Accessories for the Business Traveler

Whether you’re cruising around in a rental car or making the drive all on your own, you’ll probably want some cool, useful accessories to accompany you on the trip. When thinking about what to bring for your business traveling, from travel-related apps to audio books, consider what will make your drive more comfortable and productive (without getting distracted). Here are some ideas.

Car Neck Pillow

If your job involves a lot of traveling or you’re going to countless meetings in a new city, you might regret not having considered your own comfort when planning what to bring along. There are some easy options, like this adjustable car neck pillow, that are meant to support your neck and provide you with a more comfortable drive. Consider what you can purchase before you grab the keys and go that will make your drive more enjoyable.

Audio Books

It’s definitely fun to crank up the radio and listen to your favorite tracks, but you can take a more productive route and get business audio books you can listen to on your drive. This will give you the opportunity to learn more while you’re traveling. If you’re going to another country, you can take it a step further and get audio books that help teach you a different language. You can sometimes check out audio books in CD form from the library, but you can also download them from websites like Audible. Just make sure you have a car connector if you plan on hooking your iPod up to your radio.

Cellphone Headset

You’re on a business trip, so you’re probably going to need to make some phone calls. Don’t resort to just holding the phone to your ear while you drive — it’s uncomfortable, and it’s dangerous to not have both hands on the wheel. Plus, if you’re going to a different state, the laws vary about whether or not it’s legal to use a handheld phone at all. For example, Washington D.C. bans all handheld cellphone use while driving. Check out the laws for your destination, and see if getting a headset or Bluetooth is a solution for you.

Conclusion

Before you get in the car, think about what accessories you can bring to keep your drive from becoming monotonous or uncomfortable. These are three ideas to start with, but there are more options out there. What accessories do you use during your car rides for work?

  

Is Your Phone Smart?

Smartphone.

Think that smartphones only surfaced in the last few years? Think again. Smartphones have been around for a while. Albeit, they were a bit clunky and not as flashy as they are now. But, they were the basic models for that nice looking phone you have today. When they first appeared in 1993, they were clunky and heavy, but they did serve as a phone and fax machine. Older smartphones like Simon paved the way for the smartphones we have today. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that other companies started developing their own brand of smartphones. Now, smartphones provide a plethora of entertainment to consumers, as well as the ability to personalize it.

1. Ringtones have evolved from standard chimes and telephone rings, to full MP3 songs. People can load their favorite music on their smartphones, and individually set them to contacts in their address books. That’s not all. Sounds called message tones can also be loaded on your phone. These sounds vary, ranging from funny to downright silly. Literally all smartphones are customizable, and can be purchased everywhere.

2. Smartphones on eBay give consumers the ability to buy phones without a contract. The options become even broader since smartphones can be bought rooted. This means that they’re hacked or unlocked to work with any wireless provider. It also allows you to install a compatible OS on the phone. Just make sure it works with your wireless provider.

3. Pictures and movies come on nearly every smartphone. Most people use their phones to take pictures or record video. They are capable of sharing media via 3G or 4G networks to social networking sites. In addition, most smartphones are GPS enabled, which means you can find your destination wherever you are.

4. Music listening is now an ability on all smartphones. Many people substitute their MP3 players with their cell phones. Some smartphones come built with 8 to 16GB of flash memory already on the phone. However, the majority of them have the option of increasing this memory to double or more. Locate the SD card slot beneath the phone battery, or on the side. Pop an SD card into the slot, and you have more room for mobile entertainment.

Smartphones have come a long way since the Simon. And, that was only in 1993! Who would have thought that the mobile phone would have advanced so much in such a short period? Because of the technology we have today, which continues to improve, smartphones will only get better.