Wot Nxt?
Interesting snippets from around the globe

Like an iPad made of paper

Moleskine, the notebook and journal company with a big interest in paper-based products has launched the Livescribe Notebook. In most respects, it looks like a typical, huigh quality Moleskine notebook except when you write or draw in it with a Livescribe smartpen (a pen known for turning written, paper notes into typed, digital transcripts), your doodles and brainstorms are automatically backed up to an app.

The smartpen is programmed with the exact lines, margins, and buttons of the Moleskine paper, so it always knows where the pen is hitting the paper.

If you’d like to tag a sketch to pull up later, you simply tap onto one of three icons printed at the bottom the page – a star, flag, or tag. If you’d like to record a verbal note alongside your sketch, there are play, pause, and record icons at the bottom of the page, too.

Additionally, two pull-out bookmarks offer some logistical features as well, like letting you update your pen’s Wi-Fi settings.

That’s very cool.

(Sept ’14)


Drug detecting fingernail polish

A group of students at North Carolina State University are developing Undercover Colors, a line of fingernail polish that can detect the presence of common date rape drugs by swirling your finger in your drink.

If the nail polish changes colour, your drink has been spiked. If the nail polish doesn’t change colour, you have just swirled your drink. That’s a small price to pay to know whether or not your date is a potential rapist.

There’s no information on the colour range or if there are metallic effects.

(Sept ’14)


Plane Finder lets you track or replay air traffic

Plane Finder is an app for tracking flights around the world in real-time. Want to know where the plane that just flew over you was heading? Plane Finder has you covered.

However, an interesting feature has been introduced for version 7.3.0 (iPad/iPhone) – it now lets you replay historical flights, going all the way back to April 2011.

While Plane Finder was probably developed for serious plane geekery, here in Mt Eden we are directly under the new SMART Approach for Auckland airport and the website tells us the elevation of the plane as it crosses overhead. It’s fairly interesting to see how much lower (and noisier) those planes are than Auckland Airport and the CAA, the promoters of the SMART Approach, would have us believe.

Nevertheless, you could be interested in looking at how major events such as hurricanes or the volcanic eruptions in Iceland have impacted flights as the planes moved (or not) around the world.

Plane Finder is free online or available to download from the App Store (at a cost) for iOS devices.

(Sept ’14)


LA School Police return grenade launchers

Los Angeles school police have acquired a number of military weapons through a U.S. Department of Defense program that provides local law enforcement with surplus war gear, free of charge (other than shipping costs).

The LA Times reports, "The Los Angeles School Police Department, which serves the nation's second-largest school system, will return three grenade launchers but intends to keep 61 rifles and a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected [MRAP] armoured vehicle it received through the program." Oh, that's great – a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle… for use at schools.

And, why would a school need a grenade launcher?

(Sept ’14)


IBM’s 1937 corporate songbook

The opening passage of the IBM songbook of 1937 reads:
“For thirty-seven years, the gatherings and conventions of our IBM workers have expressed in happy songs the fine spirit of loyal cooperation and good fellowship which has promoted the signal success of our great IBM Corporation in its truly International Service for the betterment of business and benefit to mankind."

Sheesh – what a mouthful.

This 54-page monument to corporate culture overflows with praise for the company and its men. It’s like a hymnal, and there are pages of songs dedicated to the Founder and President, Thos. J. Watson. Here’s one (sung to the tune of “Pack up your troubles”):

1. Pack up your troubles-Mr. Watson's here!
And smile, smile, smile.
He is the genius in our I. B. M.
He's the man worth while.
He's inspiring all the time,
And very versatile-oh!
He is our strong and able President!
His smile's worth while.

2. "Great organizer and a friend so true,"
Say all we boys.
Ever he thinks of things to say and do,
To increase our joys.
He is building every day
In his outstanding style-so
Pack up your troubles Mr. Watson's here
And Smile-Smile-Smile.
The songbook then carries on with songs dedicated to other, named individuals – Vice Presidents, District Managers, Sales Managers, Plant Managers, Budget Managers, Executive Secretaries, Consultants…

The 100th and last song in the book is called “Selling I.B.M.” and is sung to the tune of “Singing in the Rain”.

Selling I. B. M., we're selling I. B. M.,
What a glorious feeling, the world is our friend,
We're Watson's great crew, we're loyal and true,
We’re proud of our job and we never feel blue.
We sell our whole line, we're there every time,
To chase away gloom with our products so fine,
We're always in trim, we work with a vim,
We're selling, just selling, I. B. M.

You’ll find a copy of the song book at the second link, and archived recordings of some of the songs at the third link.

Haven’t times changed?

(Sept ’14)


Turn your jaw into a power plant

Researchers have tried a myriad of ways to try to capture the power of human movement, but here’s one with a peculiar twist.

A pair of researchers from Montreal's École de Technologie Supérieure have cooked up a headset that, while extremely goofy-looking, can harness the power of your jaw muscles while you chew, gab on the phone and stress-grind your teeth.

The secret here are piezoelectric fibres that form part of a chin strap and are lashed to either sides of a pair of earmuffs. As your mouth moves, the fibres stre-e-e-etch and generate power in the process. Thus far however, the total amount of juice your face will generate comes out to a whopping 10 microwatts a minute. To put that into perspective, that's just a fraction of a fraction of the amount needed for a bog-standard flashlight.

According to the report, the theoretical maximum isn’t all that great either. Assuming a total conversion of your molars mechanical energy into electricity, we're looking at ~7 milliwatts, tops.

But the researchers aren’t finished yet, and it always possible that in future you could recharge your phone just by talking on it.

Would you want to wear something that looked like that?

(Sept ’14)


Charge your iPhone in the microwave. What?

Are you familiar with Apple Wave, the revolutionary new charging feature that’s bundled with iOS 8? It uses microwave frequencies to charge your phone. All you need to do for a rapid recharge is place your iOS 8 device in a microwave for a minute and a half. Wait, what?

That’s the gist of a bogus iOS 8 ad currently making the rounds on social media. As Digital Trends points out, the ad originated from the 4chan message boards – the same group responsible for recent leaked nude celebrity photos.

While virtually nobody that reads this site would fall for such a thing, I’m sure most of us could think of at least a couple of people in our lives that might be gullible enough to give it a try.

So, just for the record, DO NOT put your iDevice in the microwave.

(Sept ’14)

Back to top


There’s a dating site for… Algorithms?

Just like us, algorithms vary widely in popularity. Some get all the attention while others languish on the sidelines, little noticed, which is why there is now a dating site for them.

A startup called Algorithmia has been especially set up to match up researchers and data analysts with the perfect way to probe their data. In other words, matchmaking for algorithms. Many of the algorithms written in academia are used for their original analysis and then archived or shelved, never to be seen again even if they are particularly adept are performing some function. Some will be highly specific and tuned for the research they were originally written for, but could offer new insights for others too without the need for all the man hours required to develop new software.

The model is simple. Researchers can list their algorithms on the site with an explanation of what they can do. Then, when someone searches for software to fulfil a certain task, appropriate algorithms are offered up. If someone chooses to use one, they pay a small fee to the original developer and Algorithmia takes a small cut.

The site is currently in beta testing.

If you have developers on your team, this could be of great benefit to them.

(Sept ’14)


The Ig Nobel Awards

The annual Ig Nobel Awards were recently handed out at Harvard University by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine. The Ig Nobels are annually awarded for “Improbable Research – Research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK”, with the gongs presented by real Nobel Laureates.

One of the big winners, receiving the Medicine Prize, was a group of researchers from Michigan who found that packing strips of cured pork in the nose of a child who suffers from uncontrollable, life-threatening nosebleeds can stop the haemorrhaging.

Sticking pork products up a patient's nose was a treatment of last resort when conventional treatments had failed, they said, and was only used for a very specific condition known as Glanzmann thrombasthenia, a rare condition in which blood does not properly clot.

The remedy method worked because "there are some clotting factors in the pork ... and the high level of salt will pull in a lot of fluid from the nose."

They did not recommend sticking pork up your nose for a routine nosebleed, as it could cause infection.

Other winners were researchers investigating why banana skins are slippery, and that "night owl" people are more likely to be psychopaths than early risers. Yes, that could include you.

Full list of winners at the second link.

(Sept ’14)


Moscow benches to display sitter’s weight

In a bid to raise fitness consciousness, Moscow’s authorities have decided to replace ordinary park benches with high-tech scales. The change, which will affect the city’s most popular parks, is being sponsored by gyms that are hoping to attract more weight-obsessed clients.

A similar campaign is already in place at a public bus stop in the Netherlands, where benches are attached to large electronic panels that display the seated person’s weight in kilograms. The panels also feature nutrition-related information and gym advertisements.

According to the report, the high-tech benches will also be wired for phone-charging stations at an additional cost of 50,000 rubles ($NZ1,000) per bench. The cost will be covered by advertising.

After a stroll at the park, the last thing you’d want is to sit on a weighing scale that spills your secrets to the world.

(Sept ’14)


Frogs go bonkers over iPhone video of worms

We all spend a fair amount of time staring at the smartphone screen in our hand, but these frogs might just have us beaten.

In the video at the link below, a small army of frogs watch intently as a video of worms plays on the screen of an iPhone placed in the dirt. A few of the amphibians even take a leap at the phone, hoping the worms could be dinner.

It’s clear – even frogs are fans of Apple.

(Sept ’14)


Buy stuff you see in the movies

Have you ever watched a movie and thought to yourself, “Gee, I’d really like one of those” or “I really want to go there”. Well, now you can really buy that, or something a lot like it, thanks to TheTake.

The company is the brainchild of a former MGM Studios sales employee who saw Kayne West at the Video Music Awards in 2010 and really wanted the suit he was wearing.

Teaming up with a software engineer and a consumer product specialist they built proprietary software to track products in films, and identify the source of the products. The work starts even before a movie is finished – working with the studios or when the trailer is released. Revenue generated from sales is typically split with the studios.

Searches can be conducted by movies, products or locations.

Check it out.

(Sept ’14)


California and self-driving cars

The first trio of companies looking to test self-driving cars on California's public roads got newly required permits from the state's Department of Motor Vehicles last week.

Google nabbed paperwork for taking a fleet of 25 Lexus SUVs to the streets, while Audi and Mercedes-Benz also secured written approval that's now a must for trials amongst regular automobiles. Other auto-makers are also working on getting the proper approval for testing as well, so long as vehicles have a way for the driver to take control if necessary.

 California has welcomed autonomous vehicles since 2012 but the state announced new rules for testing on public roads earlier this year that went into effect this month.

(Sept ’14)


Texting while walking – there’s a lane for that

A city in China recently created a smartphone footpath lane for those who can’t keep their eyes off their mobile devices.

The 50-metre stretch of pavement in the city of Chongqing is split in two by a line of paint - one side allows cellphone use at your “own risk”; the other side is marked “No cell phones.”

Better to keep your head up.

(Sept ’14)


Is a houseplant spying on you?

Researchers from MIT have shown that they can recover various types of audio, including human speech, by filming and analysing the tiny vibrations that sound creates in nearby objects. In one example, a person recited words, and this sound vibrated a nearby bag of potato chips.

The researchers filmed the bag of chips with a high-speed camera, through sound-proof glass, and were then able to reconstruct what the person was saying with relatively good quality – you can make out the words, and recognise the person's voice.

The scientists could also reconstruct conversations by filming vibrations on the surface of glass, aluminium foil, and even a house plant. A video is at the second link.


(Aug ‘14)



Page  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20