New TVs at CES

If you thought there wasn’t much more manufacturers could do with HDTV after 3D TVs basically crashed and burned, then check out this video from Crave Online of the Top 5 TV Innovations at CES. We;re definitely seeing new features being added for “smart TVs” and also some interesting shapes to make the viewing experience more natural.


Remembering Steve Jobs and the Mac

We’re coming up on the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh computer and a writer from Rolling Stone has uncovered the full transcript of an interview he conducted with Steve Jobs two months before the release of the computer. It’s classic Steve Jobs with some incredible quotes. Check it out.


Is This the Next Leap in Motion Technology?

For a peripheral that is somewhat overpriced, underutilized, and in general vastly inferior to the Nintendo Wii console it seemingly got most of its motivation from, the Xbox Kinect has made quite a splash in the motion based control field.

There are of course the Guiness Book of World Records worthy initial sales figures to back this up, but the real proof of this impact is evident in the creativity this device’s impressive technology has inspired in its users. See while game developers can’t seem to make a good Kinect game that isn’t a dance simulator or Wii sports rip off if their jobs depended on it, the Kinect users have managed to hack into the device to make the basic technology that runs it do some incredible things. These include the entertaining (light saber simulators), the sci-fi worthy (robot controller), and the practical yet cool advancements in basic human interface:

Motion controlled interface has been a dream of sorts for consumers, especially since it was popularized in the movie “Minority Report.” With devices like the Kinect and iPhone, we have gotten closer and closer to this goal, but have yet to fully realize it. Even the impressive demonstration in that video was marred by the fact that the movements needed to actually control the system had to be very blunt, and required full body commitment to make even the simplest of motion commands.

San Francisco based company Leap Motion thinks they might have the inevitable solution. Their device (called the Leap) is about the size of an iPod and works through a USB input your PC or Mac. It reads a space four cubic feet in size, and is supposed to be 200x more accurate than anything else on the market. This means accuracy to within 1/100th of a millimeter, which should allow for subtle finger movements (instead of whole hand and body motions) being able to produce the desired results.

The extraordinary video the company released seems to back that up.

We’ve been promised the moon with motion sensors before, but I have to say that given the advancements in the motion field over the past few years, I see no real reason that the Leap shouldn’t function in the way it claims to. My only real red flag in that video is the video game controller sections. I still feel that we are a ways off from total motion control in games without the use of any buttons, especially in titles designed with mouse/keyboard in mind. Of course in menu heavy titles like Real Time Strategy Games or RPG’s, I could see this device making formerly monotonous navigation somewhat enjoyable.

Even if it’s not yet perfect, at a modest retail price of $70 (pre-orders are being taken now), many consumers might give this device a shot and find their own ways to make use of it when it’s released early next year. After all, that’s the only explanation as to why the Kinect is doing so well.


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.


Turning car windows in screens

This project from GM looks very cool, but you have to wonder how it works with safety, as drivers can’t be distracted by this stuff.