Turn Your Tub into a Touchscreen With Aquatop

Technology may be designed to be with you wherever you go, but the one area where your pretty much on your own is the bath.

Sure you can buy waterproof cases, but when you get right down to it, how comfortable are you really with holding your favorite expensive electrical toy mere inches above a pool of water? Even if you do survive an accidental drop, exactly how much submersion can that tablet or smartphone withstand before it’s lost?

That’s the question that keeps most of us from bringing our tech in the tub, and drove a team of developers in Tokyo to use a Kinect, a projector, some speakers, and a home computer to craft an invention that can turn the surface of your tub into a touch screen.

From the user’s perspective, once the device is turned on, they only need to dip their hands into the water to turn them into interface tools. With that in place, you are now able to run files, videos, pictures, and other applications, and interact with them in a manner very similar to how you would with a touchscreen.  There are even special gestures, like the ability to use your thumb and index finger to grasp an icon and drag it around or, even cooler, the ability to fully grasp an item and submerge it to delete it.

The really impressive part about this tech comes through the games however. I advise you skip to about 7:06 in that video above, to see what happens when you combine all of the elements of this tech to produce a game that may be simple (essentially an aerial shooter type), but uses what should be a hindering environment for such a thing as an advantage instead, as you are provided a gaming experience that could be had nowhere else but the bathtub.

Continuing a recent trend on this site, this is a device that isn’t likely to go beyond the prototype stage, but hopefully makes sporadic public appearances in some fashion, as it’s hard to not want to get your feet wet (so to speak) in this technology once you see it in action.

Experience Vinyl Anywhere With the Versatile Evergreen Record Player

Evergreen-portable-USB-record-player-PC

Photo Courtesy of: Far East Gizmos

Whether or not the vocal constituent of audiophiles who continue to insist that “it just sounds better on vinyl” are completely in the right is a debate that may wage on for years to come, but no matter where you stand on the issue, there is no denying that some albums just feel more natural in vinyl.

They are albums like “Abbey Road,” “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Dark Side of the Moon,” “Loaded,” and “Highway 61 Revisited.” Sure you can own them on CD or digitally, but classics like these, and more, deserve to be owned in their original  form, where they maintain that image of  artifacts of a musically brilliant age gone by.

For experiencing timeless works such as those, everyone really should own a record player. But, instead of throwing down hundreds of dollars on a bulky hi-fi setup, and more on speakers, why not consider something simpler like the Evergreen DN-84537?

Like other Evergreen models, this player employs a bare basics design that cuts down on space, and also attaches to your computer through a USB cable which allows you to record music to your computer, and take advantage your rig’s speaker system. Where this model stands triumphant though, is in the inclusion of its built in speakers which, combined with the AA battery back-up option, allows for a portable, fully functional record player no matter where you are, and all for the ridiculously low price of under $50.

There are a couple of disadvantages to the Evergreen though. Particularly there’s  the lower sound quality you get with the integrated speaker design, and the fact they are currently only available in Japan. So since the import cost for one would kind of defeat the purpose, let’s hope that these players make their way to more of the globe, so everyone will have a chance to experience some of the greatest music of all time in its native format, as conveniently as possible.

New Virtual Simulator Allows For Complete Sensory Experience

Considering that the average person can pull out a device smaller than their hand and access the collective general knowledge of the world, and that a group of above average people managed to shoot a remotely operated vehicle on a planet hundreds of millions of miles away, it takes a lot for a new technological idea to make you take notice.

But that is the case with Ikei Laboratory’s Virtual Body Technology, as it explores that age old fascinating concept of virtual reality in an exciting and new way, where the user is allowed to see, hear, smell, and feel what another person would be seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling in a completely different part of the world.

It’s not quite stepping into someone else’s shoes, especially as the avatar isn’t real and the experience is predetermined, but what’s impressive is the sheer set up of the device, which revolves around a motion capable chair facing a 3D monitor, surrounded by fans that simulate smells and sensations (like the wind), while the user wears a pair of high quality headphones and fits themselves into a foot rig that’s motion and vibration can simulate walking and running. It’s extremely comprehensive in recreating genuine physical experiences.

Honestly, this kind of thing has been around for a while, and is even used in high-tech movie theaters and theme parks as an attraction. This design is slightly different though in how many sensations and experiences it can recreate and, more importantly, how accurately it can recreate them. Even with all of our technological advancements, virtual reality is still an idea that eludes us in the classic sense of the term, but this device is a practical step forward in closing in on the idea.

Right now the main motivation behind the device is to allow elderly people who may be unable to do so traditionally the chance to explore new places in the most complete way possible. However, it is also capable of scenarios like recreating the sensation of running like world champion Usain Bolt. In other words, it has the potential to provide a uniquely entertaining experience for anyone who straps themselves in.

Well, unless they choose the Jay Cutler simulator.

Shown Here in his Natural State

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.

Microsoft’s New Tech Toys Are Not the Coolest Gadgets for This Summer

So, I know that there is a lot of talk going on right now about Microsoft’s big announcements concerning their new tablet and the Windows 8 phone. And why not? They’re both beautiful new machines that are set to not only eat some large holes in wallets worldwide, but maybe even eat the hearts of some Apple owners in the process (though probably not).

In fact, I was ready to add another entry into the hype machine with this article. There I was at my computer going from page to page, report to report, spec listing to spec listing, absorbing every detail along the way and furiously typing up my findings. Then, something quite embarrassing happened. I looked at my shirt and noticed that even in my moderately cool (temperature wise) apartment, I had worked up a case of the sweats. I was so flustered, in fact, that I modified my search to “rapid ways to cool off.”

That’s when I found it. The coolest invention for the summer. And as you may have guessed by the headline, it isn’t the Windows 8 phone. No, instead it comes to us from the island of Japan and is manufactured by a company called Kuchofuku. What does Kuchofuku translate to? Air-conditioned clothing, and that’s what they’re all about. Their bread and butter item is the air conditioned work shirt.

It’s actually been around for a couple of years now, so before anyone else says it, yes, this is old news. However, considering it’s currently 91 degrees in the evening in New York, I think it’s starting to feel surprisingly relevant again. There’s not much to the shirt really. It’s just a couple of AA battery powered (with optional USB charge) fans attached to the back of the shirt that pumps cool air around you while you wear it. It’s made of polyester, comes in a few different colors and sizes, and gives me some very fond memories of Marty Mcfly’s self-drying jacket from “Back to the Future 2.”

Kuchofuku isn’t just a one trick pony, though. That shirt is just one of the offerings in their diverse product line. They also offer a less than stylish air conditioned coat, and the most surprisingly practical item in their arsenal, an air conditioned bed cover that pumps cool air throughout while you sleep and costs a meager 24 cents a month to power for 8 hours a day.

These items aren’t just novelty devices either. ABC News reported that, following the Japanese tsunami disaster, these air conditioned clothes and accessories saw a tremendous spike in sales from citizens left without power who needed to stay cool during the blistering summer months. Not only that, but major companies like Toyota  started ordering these shirts for their employees to stay comfortable at work with, all while cutting down on cooling costs.

Now, there is the slight problem concerning the cost of the clothes. That shirt, for instance, retails for about $183, while the bed cover is going to set you back around $352. However, if you are one of the millions considering spending hundreds of dollars on a new Microsoft product just to look cool, why not take a part of that money and buy some clothes that will actually make you be cool. And if you don’t want to take my word for it (couldn’t blame you), here’s an actual quote from Kuchofuku founder and former Sony engineer Hiroshi Ichigaya on his product:

“People ask me, why would I want to wear a jacket when it’s so hot… I tell them, because it’s cooler than being naked.”